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History

Joseph Winthrop Spencer The history of our Museum dates back to a collection of some 1,100 mineral and rock specimens left to the University of Manitoba by Joseph Winthrop Spencer (1851-1921). Spencer was a well-traveled geologist with broad interests, but best known for his work on the geomorphology and evolution of the Great Lakes basin and Niagara Falls. His choice of the University of Manitoba is explained in his letter to the University President J.A. MacLean in the following words: "Mrs. Spencer suggested Winnipeg as being the centre of a new and growing country, where the University was bound to have a great future. This immediately appealed to me, as I knew that my Collections would throw further light on the Geological Formations occurring in Manitoba".

In addition to the collections and papers, donated in 1918, Spencerís widow later established a scholarship in his memory, aimed "to promote research work in Geology". In 1944, the scholarship was replaced with the Winthrop Spencer Gold Medal. The first recipient of the Medal was Thomas Oliver (1924-1997), who would later found the Department of Geology at the University of Calgary.

The mineral collection was initially housed in the Geology Building Annex on the Broadway campus in downtown Winnipeg. In 1932, the Department moved to the Science (presently Buller) Building on the Fort Garry campus (in the south end of town), and the collection was transferred to a room on the second floor of that building. The room was furnished with wooden cabinets with a suite of representative specimens displayed in their top (glazed) compartments, and the rest of the collection stored in drawers underneath. Visual examination of the specimens by students was a standard component of the Elementary Mineralogy course. Buller Building

The collection remained in the Buller Building until 1960, when the Department relocated to the Chemistry (now FitzGerald) Building. The display cabinets were first moved into the northwestern portion of the basement in the FitzGerald Building, but a few years later, this area was converted into a drafting room, which prompted relocation of the mineral collection. Bob Ferguson suggested that, instead of remaining hidden in the drawers, the specimens should be displayed in the hallways. The idea found support at the Department and the mineral collection was moved into new cabinets, designed, manufactured and installed under Bob's supervision. The 36 vertical wooden cabinets with a glass front and several shelves inside were set up on all three floors of the Chemistry Building, and proved a very effective and attractive way of showcasing the science of mineralogy. The collection (since 1971 officially bearing the museum status) remained in this building for 20 years.

Wallace Building In 1985, the Department of Geological Sciences relocated to the newly built Wallace Building at 125 Dysart Road. Its spacious hallways and vestibule made the Wallace Building a perfect home for the Department's mineral and fossil collections. Presently, about one-sixth of all mineral specimens make up the systematic exhibit in the hallway. There, the minerals are arranged from the most chemically and structurally simple to progressively more complex. This exhibit is intended to help students in learning the undergraduate course material, and to introduce casual visitors to the diversity and beauty of the mineral kingdom.

Menagerie The Ed Leith Cretaceous Menagerie presently houses some of the most attractive specimens from the Museum collection, although many equally splendid pieces thus far remain in the depository for the lack of display space.

In the first 55 or so years of its history, the collection was managed mainly by those who taught the undergraduate mineralogy and crystallography courses: first by Robert Charles Wallace (who founded the Department), then George McLeod Brownell (between 1928-1947) and Bob Ferguson (since 1947).

In 1970, following the completion of her Master's degree in mineralogy under Bob Ferguson's supervision, Iva ČernŠ was officially appointed the first Curator of the Museum, the position she held till her retirement in 1993 and, as a volunteer, for 10 additional years. Iva's role was instrumental in transferring the collections to the Wallace Building, securing the funding for new display and storage cabinets, and setting-up the exhibit at the new location. Much of her time was devoted to specimen identification and cataloguing. For more than 20 years, Iva also taught labs for several geology courses and maintained the collections used in hands-on student training. Iva and Peter Cerny

Today, the Museum is managed by Anton Chakhmouradian (Curator) and Ekaterina Reguir (voluntary Assistant Curator), whose research interests are in the area of alkaline and related rocks. We thankfully acknowledge the support that the Robert B. Ferguson Museum of Mineralogy has received over the years from the Canadian Geological Foundation, Chevron Oil, University of Manitoba, Clayton H. Riddell Faculty of Environment, Earth and Resources, Faculty of Science and Department of Geological Sciences Endowment Funds, as well as from the Manitoba Culture, Heritage and Tourism Grants Program. We are also grateful to all our private benefactors and volunteers, who have graciously contributed to the growth and betterment of the Museum.