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Photo: Reinhard Brauns
The historical building in 1898

Turning a granary into a museum

The ancient building of the University of Marburg's Mineralogical Museum was founded in 1515 as a granary and bake house by the Knights of Teutonic Order (Deutschordensritter). During the period of reformation, starting just a few years later, the influence of the Knights of Teutonic Order in the region of Marburg decreased and the building lost its importance. During the following centuries the house remained more or less unused and almost deteriorated. It only survived to this day because the expanding town did not require the site.

In 1917, after some inevitable but incomplete repairs, the building became a storehouse for the mineralogical collection. Between 1968 and 1974 the building got completely restored; two levels of exhibition space were opened up on the occasion of the 450th anniversary of the University of Marburg in 1977. In 1984, a third exhibition floor followed. The building consists of a total of six floors which are used today as follows: a magazine in the basement, magazines, administration and laboratory facilities on the first floor, exhibition rooms on the second, third and fourth floor, and a storage room in the loft.

The collection

The collection was founded in 1790 by Johann Gottlieb Waldin, professor of mathematics at the University of Marburg. Following the professor's suggestion, the Hessian landgrave William IX gave order to all mines, smelteries and forges all over his country to deliver ore and mineral samples in order to complete the collection named "Hessian Cabinet of Minerals".

Between 1850 and 1915 the collection expanded mainly due to the activities of Professor Girard and one of the most famous gemmologists of his time, Professor Max Bauer.
Expeditions to Northern Scandinavia and Greenland by Arthur Schwantke in 1900 and especially the expeditions to Eastern Siberia, Indonesia, Thailand, Ceylon, Burma and India by Professor Weigel between 1922 and 1935 yielded more than 10.000 samples.

Today, the collection consists of 2.300 exhibits on display, 55.000 registered and about 50.000 still unregistered stored samples. Initially, the collection had been considered as sampled material for scientific instruction and research. Respecting the building's configuration, its surrounding area and the attractiveness of plenty of the samples, it had been decided to arrange an exhibition of selected minerals and rocks accessible to everybody. The intention of the arrangement is to show the system, the diversity, and last, not least, the beauty and aesthetics of minerals and rocks.