West Bloomfield resident Bernard Merritt donated a highly valued mineral, geode and fossil collection.
"We get donations at least once a month but nothing like this collection," Kent Murray, Professor of Geology, said. "These are world class specimens." Merritt requested that Murray view the collection to determine if it would be of any interest to the University. Murray was not prepared for the magnitude of the collection.
Merritt initially purchased minerals as a way of giving his son a hobby. "He started collecting bottle caps at age ten and then we started to introduce him to minerals," Merritt said, "It was a way of educating him, our daughter and ourselves."
Merritt explained that his collection is made up of two major components-his own collection and a collection he purchased from another collector, John Allen. "[Allen] was trying to sell his collection for $800 and I knew it was worth far more than that," Merritt said.
Merritt purchased much of his collection at mineral shows. "I'd see something I'd like and buy it. When you buy something, you don't have the time to research it-you go away for a day and you may not have the chance to buy it. It may be gone."
Most of the mineral and geode specimens contained in this collection are currently displayed on the first floor of the Science Building. The fossils and other artifacts will be displayed in the new Environmental Interpretive Center. "The lower quality specimens will be used for classroom activities and for the K-12 students that visit our campus," Murray said.
"Hopefully, this will be a tourist attraction to rival collections at Ann Arbor and MTU," said Murray. "The display will also help make the [Science] building a more interesting building to walk through. Years ago, you could walk down these halls [in the Science Building] and besides the names [of professors] on the doors, you couldn't even tell that it was a Science Building."
"From a replaceability standpoint, this collection is priceless, especially the geodes; they're one of a kind because it takes so long for them to develop, in some cases tens of millions of years." Murray commented. "I am extremely grateful for Mr. Merritt's donation."
"Sometimes when something is so unique, dollar-wise is not the best way to classify the collection," said Merritt. "My collection is not valuable for what's in it, but mostly for what it can attract," he said, referring to visitors.