The world is constantly changing, and the ability to accept that is the only thing that protects us from feeling an unending sense of loss. But on occasion, something pierces your adaptive armor and a steady stream of sloppy nostalgia pours from the wound; the American Museum of Natural History’s Halls of Gems and Minerals is closing.
The New York Times reported last week that the halls are being remodeled, with all its gems rearranged for a modern audience. On Tuesday, Jaya Saxena wrote a testament to the Morgan Memorial Hall of Gems and the Harry Frank Guggenheim Hall of Minerals in the Village Voice, and it made me want to barf and cry at the same time. Saxena dubs the dark, cool other-wordly space the “weirdos’ lounge” and nothing could be more apt.
If you’ve never visited the American Museum of Natural History, it may be difficult to convey the musty magic of this strange circular room and all its secret corners filled with rocks rubbed smooth by curious hands. Ancient installations would turn lights on and off to reveal the fluorescent magic hidden in the most ordinary surfaces. The entire place is carpeted in dark grey, a decision that one cannot conceive of anyone making for an exhibition space targeted at children.
According to the NYT, the remodeled version of the hall will open in 2019 for the museum’s 150th anniversary, renamed the Allison and Roberto Mignone Halls of Gems and Minerals. Renderings of the new space seem to promise a display of giant screens telling you about the gems. We have abandoned tactile learning, unless it involves clicking on an app! But do you need to dress up wonders like these:
The renovated gallery will also display the Star of India blue sapphire, the 632-carat Patricia Emerald and the “Subway Garnet,” a nine-pound gem unearthed during the excavation for a sewer in Midtown Manhattan in 1885.
So many rainy afternoons in my childhood were spent wandering this dark, worn exhibit. The last time I was there as a grown-ass adult, I couldn’t get cell service. My response to this travesty is clearly that of an “old,” but I stand by this belief: sometimes what you really need is a room with only a cool rock to meditate on.