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About mineral collecting.

First of all I would like to thank Rock Currier for his great series "About Mineral Collecting." It is probably the best text ever written as a general guide to this subject. As my reflection on the article I would like to add a few words regarding localities and labels.

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As Rock mentioned in his text, the situations he describes are typical examples but are not the only ones. There are two very common problems connected with localities that cause a lot of difficulty for collectors and dealers. The first is localities which have changed names over time (sometimes repeatedly)--Dalnegorsk being a good example. Specimens that were distributed to collections around the world in the early 20th century are generally labeled Tetjuche (the Chinese name for the locality at that time), not Dalnegorsk. Similar confusion surrounds Striegau, the well-known locality in Poland. Striegau is a German name that was in use until the end of World War II. Since 1945 the town has been called Strzegom (in Polish), but in many reference works and famous collections the name Striegau has been retained because it is better known than Strzegom. The problem with names that have been changed over time is that nobody remembers all of the various historical names and their synonyms. Thus there is always the problem of which name to use on labels: the more famous "Striegau" that increases the value of the specimen, or the currently correct but relatively unknown "Strzegom"? In my opinion the most current names should be used.

The second big problem for collectors wishing to write correct labels is the lack of knowledge about political subdivisions in the countries of origin. Rock proposed citing the country, state, province, canton, department, district, town etc. and I think we can all agree that would be best. But the number of localities is increasing so fast and is so huge today that no reference work can be found which contains all of them, especially with all of the correct political subdivisions. Of course it is not so hard to find current and precise information about localities in the well-developed, well-explored countries, but finding the proper political subdivisions in countries like Madagascar, for instance, can be challenging.

Fortunately there is a light at the end of the tunnel. The mindat.org website is probably the world's largest continuously updated database of minerals and localities. One can find there information on political subdivisions, old and alternative locality names, and even the GPS data for some of them. The advantage of Mindat (and other encyclopedias such as Wikipedia etc.) is the ease of adding or altering information: every user can contribute to the content of this database. People who have special knowledge of particular localities or species can upgrade the data up to very high quality level. Because the users are from all over the world, some of them have knowledge about subjects which to others are like a closed book, and they can easily make corrections. The localities are the best example, especially those that are problematic for some reason. People who specialize in some of them or live in those countries where they are located may provide very complete information, including proper diacritic marks, GPS data, old names etc.--and they do!! For collectors who have only a general interest in those localities, that knowledge could be very difficult or even impossible to find from any other source.

I believe that Internet databases such as Mindat are the wave of the future, and it is up to us to determine how high the quality of the posted information will be. And believe me, it is very helpful when you want to make a proper label for your specimen. In fact, the Mindat database is becoming so popular that locality designations posted there are coming to be regarded as the "standard names" for the localities.

Tomasz Praszkier

"Spirifer" Geological Society, Poland
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Author:Praszkier, Tomasz
Publication:The Mineralogical Record
Geographic Code:4EXPO
Date:Jul 1, 2009
Words:656
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