On this page...
The Albert Chapman mineral collection was purchased by the New South Wales Government in 1988.
How was the collection acquired?
The Albert Chapman mineral collection was purchased by the New South Wales Government in 1988, with assistance from Conzinc Riotinto Australia, North Broken Hill and BHP. The collection was housed in the Geological and Mining ('Earth Exchange') Museum until its closure in late 1995. In December 1995 the New South Wales Government transferred care of this collection to the Australian Museum, where it is now on permanent display in a magnificent new exhibition which opened on 27 September 1996.
About Albert Chapman
Albert Chapman was born in Mackay, Queensland in 1912.
Albert's father was a sea captain and amateur naturalist, who often brought home natural history specimens such as sea shells and encouraged Albert to collect minerals. One of the first specimens in Albert's collection, gold in quartz, was given to him by his father. In the 1920s, aged 12, Albert collected rocks on the shores of the Parramatta River, Sydney, where he later lived, and became interested in the sparkling crystals they contained. He began to collect these specimens, some of which had been used in breakwaters and came from Prospect Quarry in western Sydney and others, like garnet gneiss from South America, which were ballast dumped from ships which anchored nearby. He later collected from the Prospect quarries, finding beautiful prehnite and other minerals.
Albert trained as a cabinet maker and carpenter, later establishing a building business in Sydney, however collecting and trading minerals was the 'hobby' that dominated his life. Being a perfectionist in his craft as well as his hobby, ensured that Albert's collection was very special indeed. The mines of Broken Hill, with their incredible variety of fine mineral specimens, also attracted him at an early stage, and many collecting trips were made underground through contacts with mine managers and miners, who became firm friends.
These specimens were not often seen overseas, so Albert was able to trade them with collectors and museums in Europe and America, to further build up his collection. These travels were often made with his wife Doreen, who is also a collector. Through his collecting, reading and travelling, he became a very knowledgeable amateur mineralogist and an authority on Australian minerals. This reputation earned him automatic entry to the great museums of the world, with whom he traded specimens.
Albert was a shrewd mineral trader and fine judge of mineral quality. He set high standards in the selection and collection of minerals and because of his efforts Australian mineral collecting became important on the world scene. Albert was a founding member of the Mineralogical Society of New South Wales and assisted Australian museums in acquiring important specimens. His advice on mineral specimens was sought after by professional and amateur alike. He was the first Australian mineral collector to visit the famous Tucson Gem and Mineral Show in the USA and became a regular, well-known and respected attendee, exhibitor and trader of minerals.
Through his dedication and passion for fine minerals, Albert assembled one of the top ten private mineral collections of the world. He still maintained a keen interest in minerals right up to his death, on 20 July 1996, aged 84.
What is in the collection and why is it important?
This exceptional collection is renowned worldwide for its mineralogical diversity, crystal perfection, aesthetic appeal and high Australian content. The collection was featured in the Australia issue of Mineralogical Record in 1988.
Half the 820 specimens are Australian, with one quarter from Broken Hill, NSW. Many of these outstanding specimens (such as cerussite, smithsonite, rhodonite, pyromorphite, azurite, anglesite and spessartine) are the best ever found at Broken Hill and were photographed for the book Minerals of Broken Hill, published in 1985.
Other highlights include historical and irreplaceable heritage items from important mining regions such as Cobar ( azurite and malachite) and New England, NSW ( molybdenite, cassiterite, scheelite and fluorite); Cloncurry, Qld ( erythrite and copper); Dundas, Tasmania ( crocoite) and Moonta and Burra in South Australia ( atacamite, chalcopyrite and malachite). They are some of the finest crystallised minerals from all periods of Australia's mining history, from the 1840-50 and later. As such they are a unique part of Australia's cultural heritage.
Classic minerals from old European, African and American localities are also prominent, but there is world-wide coverage, with specimens from famous collections and with interesting pedigrees - such as topaz and quartz from Alabaschka, Ural Mountains; 'cog-wheel' bournonite from Cornwall; epidote from Austria and stibnite from Romania, some passed from one institution to another for over 100 years.
The Albert Chapman mineral collection is truly an Australian national treasure and a collection of international significance.
Treasures of the Albert Chapman Collection
The images here are a selection of the best in the Albert Chapman Mineral Collection. All of Albert's minerals are world class. Some minerals in his collection are considered the finest examples of their type in the world, or among the best ever found. Discover more about these amazing and beautiful minerals.