Quartz, Precious Metals and Gems Collection, National Museum of Natural History, Washington, D.C.
The National Museum of Natural History is a natural history museum administered by the Smithsonian Institution, located on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., United States. With free admission and open doors 364 days a year, it is the most visited natural history museum in the world. and most visited museum (of any type) in North America. Opened in 1910, the museum on the National Mall was one of the first Smithsonian buildings constructed exclusively to hold the national collections and research facilities. The main building has an overall area of 1,320,000 square feet (123,000 m2) with 350,000 square feet (33,000 m2) of exhibition and public space and houses over 1,000 employees.
The museum's collections total over 126 million specimens of plants, animals, fossils, minerals, rocks, meteorites, and human cultural artifacts. With 7.4 million visitors in 2009, it is the most visited of all of the Smithsonian museums that year and is also home to about 185 professional natural history scientists — the largest group of scientists dedicated to the study of natural and cultural history in the world.
The National Gem and Mineral Collection is one of the most significant collections of its kind in the world. The collection includes some of the most famous pieces of gems and minerals including the Hope Diamond and the Star of Asia Sapphire, one of the largest sapphires in the world. There are currently over 15,000 individual gems in the collection, as well as 350,000 minerals and 300,000 samples of rock and ore specimens. Additionally, the Smithsonian's National Gem and Mineral Collection houses approximately 35,000 meteorites, which is considered to be one of the most comprehensive collections of its kind in the world.
The collection is displayed in the Janet Annenberg Hooker Hall of Geology, Gems and Minerals, one of the many galleries in the Museum of Natural History. Some of the most important donors, besides Hooker, are Washington A. Roebling, the man who built the Brooklyn Bridge, who gave 16,000 specimens to the collection; Frederick A. Canfield, who donated 9,000 specimens to the collection; and Dr. Isaac Lea, who donated the basis of the museum’s collection of 1312 gems and minerals.