An Article In Meteorite Times Magazine
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The Meteorites Behind the Scenes

of the Denver Museum of Natural History

While on a trip to Denver last year, I spent some time inspecting the cabinet of meteorites behind the scenes of the Denver Museum of Natural History. I'd heard that the museum has a very nice collection of meteorites with a specialty area of Colorado meteorites, but found few on display in the public area of the museum. Luckily, I was able to enjoy the specimens of the mineral and meteorite collection that are currently stored away behind locked doors. In the future (hopefully the near future) there will be a large, attractive and informative meteorite display, but until then, the visiting public will just have to settle for the rest of the amazing artifacts on display throughout the museum.




The bulk of the meteorite collection is housed in drawers within a large institutional cabinet. Within seconds of scanning the cardboard boxes within each drawer, it became crystal clear that this was a world class collection!

The gentleman in the picture is Dr. Paul Morgan. Paul was the curator of geology at the museum last year, but has since left and moved to NAU's department of geology.


canon city

Canon City, Colorado fell through the roof of a garage on October 27th, 1973. Of the recovered 1378g, very little is in private collections.


canon city

The rich crust of Canon City is even more rare than the friable matrix.


canon city


This piece of Canon City still bears the scars of its encounter with the wood of Jack Steven's garage. Jack was persuaded to call some experts before tossing the rock in the garbage.

The wood fibers reminded me of my collection's house-hitting stone forever embedded with cellulose from the ceiling rafters of the Garza home in Park Forest, Illinois.




Allegan is a rather friable H5 stone that fell on July 10th, 1899.




A 41kg iron was found in 1892 in Australia and named Ballinoo. The DMNH holds a nice partial slice etched in the old way where the first 5-10mm around the rim of the slice are unetched and left in a mirror-polished state.


various irons and stones


Various irons and stones fill the drawers. While many are weathered finds of well distributed localities, the size, age, and collection history make these pieces worth much more than there weight in grams.


etched irons


Thick etched irons are abundant in the collection, and someday will make a wonderful and educationally exciting public display.


johnstown individuals


Now here is something I had not seen before, tiny complete individuals from the Johnstown diogenite fall of 1924. Note the pencil point for scale.

Before seeing these individuals, I was usually more impressed with size than completeness. My quest for a great piece of Johnstown ended when I acquired my 81g crusted quarter slice, or at least I thought so. Now that I know about complete individuals of Johnstown, my quest continues.




Kelly, Colorado is a highly desirable LL4 chondrite known for its colorful inclusions.




About 3kg of Loomis, Nebraska were plowed up in 1908 and there is speculation that maybe this stone is from a witnessed, but unrecovered (at that time) fall 25-30 years earlier. Either way, this weathered L6 find is a beautiful stone!




The famous New Mexico eucrite fall of 1933 did not escape the DMNH collection. Here is an almost complete individual of Pasamonte.



Old collections are a treasure trove of collection labels, numbers, and tags. As one who appreciates and studies such things, I get almost as excited about the human interactions with the meteorite as I do about the science.



smithville card


This large etched complete slice of Smithville is neither from Indiana, nor an IA iron. It is actually from DeKalb County Tennessee and is a IAB octahedrite. The first of the seven Smithville pieces was found in 1840. Three more masses were found in 1892. Two more in 1903, and finally a 2.9kg piece in January of 1962. Given the developments in both metal detectors, and our techniques to search for meteorites, I suspect it would be a good place to look for more pieces of this iron.


souix county


My personal favorite in this cabinet is the rarely seen Souix County, Nebraska eucrite. On August 8th, 1933, about 4kg of this achondrite fell in around 20 pieces. This pictured specimen is the only complete individual I've ever seen. However, I have not looked very hard in the past.

Is it just me, or do you also find it odd that two eucrites fell (Souix County and Pasamonte) in the same year any not terribly far from each other?


toluca and tombigbee


Toluca (upper specimen) and Tombigee River were both represented in the collection in the drawer containing the meteorites that began with the letter T. Note the wonderful graffiti on the Toluca skin.

Tombigbee River is the name of 51kg of iron meteorites that were found in Alabama. The first mass as a sub-kilo piece found in 1859. Five more masses were recovered and sold to the famous A.E. Foote. A final mass was ploughed later. Again, like Smithville, I suspect this would be another great place to spend some time swinging the detector back and forth.

As another installment of the Accretion Desk winds down, the iron and stone meteorites of the DMNH remain packed away in shut drawers inside a dark cabinet within a back room. But someday, they will see the light of day sharing their beauty with throngs of museum guests. And at that time, I'll make a special trip back to see them in all their deserved glory.

The Accretion Desk welcomes all comments and feedback.