An Article In Meteorite Times Magazine
This feature is devoted each month to one of the personalities within the meteorite community. This month we are delighted to share an interview we had with Anita Westlake.
Meteorite-Times (MT) What or who got you interested in meteorites and how old were you when you got your first meteorite?
Anita Westlake (AW) Jerry Armstrong, well-known space artist, got me started in the Wonderful World of Meteorites when I was in my 40's. He had been collecting for years and one day when I was at Jerry's house visiting, he showed me an Allende. He told me it was older than our Solar System. I couldn't wrap my brain around something that old. I asked him if I could touch it. Jerry said "You can not only touch it, you can BUY it!" So began a long love affair with space rocks.
(MT) What was your first meteorite?
(MT) Do you have special areas of interest that you focus on in regards to meteorites (thin sections, photography, chemistry, age dating.. etc)?
(AW) Over the years it has become apparent that I cannot possibly collect them all. So, I've tried to narrow the field somewhat. Now, I'm just concentrating on the ones that hit the ground! :)
(MT) Does your Family share in your interest in meteorites?
(AW) No, not at all. In fact, most people I know think there's something wrong with me because they can't understand why a grown woman would be so interested in a bunch of black rocks.
(MT) Do you have any special approaches to collecting? (Type collection, only stones, only irons, only by aesthetics, etc. or any and all that you like.)
(AW) I mainly collect meteorites that will fit into a 2 1/2 by 3 1/2 Riker Mount display box. (I can usually afford meteorites in this size range!) I have them all lining the walls in my hall at home.
(MT) Do you mind saying how many locations your collection represents?
(AW) Off hand, I'd say close to 150 different locations.
(MT) In what ways do you use your computer for meteorites?
(AW) I use my computer to type labels, and keep a running tally of my specimens. When I remember, I take this list with me when I go "shopping" at gem and mineral shows. Occasionally, I'll slip up and buy one I already have. When that happens, I simply "high-grade" (choose the best one) and give the other one away as a gift, or donate it to an auction.
(MT) Do you ever hunt for meteorites?
(AW) So far, only at shows! I've recently acquired a metal detector, and hope to get out in the field one day before I'm too old and decrepit to bend over. Of course, I could use a long stick with a magnet on the end even if I was decrepit.
(MT) What is your favorite meteorite in your collection?
(AW) It's got to be my small piece of the Sylacauga, AL meteorite. The one that hit Mrs. Hodges and caused that awful bruise.
(MT) What is your favorite overall if it is not the one above?
(AW) Lost City, OK is high up there in the rankings. I love to tell the story of how it was found in "yellow snow". Apparently, a canine marked it shortly after it landed.
(MT) What makes these of special interest?
(AW) The stories! I love telling their stories to anyone who will listen, and some who won't.
(MT) What meteorites are currently on your wish list?
(AW) Willamette, OR. I had a chance to buy one of the pieces from Ward's Scientific, and fell asleep at the switch. I'm still kicking myself for that one!
(MT) What methods have been most successful in building your collection? (Buying at shows, from dealers by mail, auctions on the web, trading... etc)
(AW) I like buying from dealers I know on eBay. I can actually see the specimen and I don't have to leave the comfort of my chair. You might say I'm an "Armchair Collector" but I'd like to change that.
(MT) Do you also collect related materials like impact glasses, breccias, melts, tektites, shocked fossils, native iron rocks etc?
(AW) I collect everything including dust on my furniture. I tell people it's Interplanetary Dust Particles. I have a nice sized Georgiaite in my collection as well as one of Jerry Armstrong's original paintings. What more could a girl want? (Maybe one with diamonds).
(MT) Do you prepare any of your own specimens? (cut, polish, etch, etc.)
(AW) Not since I tried to blow up my house and had to call a Hazmat team to rescue me and my dogs.
(MT) Have you had to take any special measures to protect them from the environment?
(AW) The humidity in Georgia is legendary. I've tried using the little desiccants from aspirin bottles, but all that does is make the meteorite angry. Occasionally, I'll grind the rust off and try to re-etch them. But then I think better of the idea. See my response to the previous question.
(MT) In what other ways are you active in meteorite collecting?
(AW) I give talks all over the southeast to mineral societies, museums, schools, etc. on meteorites. I am currently the President of the Meteorite Association of Georgia which just celebrated its 2nd anniversary. Lastly, I am a frequent contributor to Meteorite Magazine.