The core of the early collection is based on the purchase in 1906 of part of the John Henry Dunstan Collection, with significant material from the Moonta and Wallaroo Mines. This was arranged by the newly appointed lecturer in mineralogy at the University of Adelaide, a young Douglas Mawson. The Dunstan Collection was at the time the premier private mineral collection in country. During his tenure as Honorary Curator from 1906 to 1958, Mawson was also instrumental in the purchase of the Hall and Watkin Brown Collections, which gave the collection considerable strengths in material from Broken Hill and other significant New South Wales localities.
Interestingly, it took over 100 years to eventually acquire the Dunstan Collection in its entirety. Although the second half was purchased under Mawson’s watch in 1954, the remaining handful of specimens retained by the family were donated by Dunstan’s great grand-daughters in 2011. Much of our knowledge of Dunstan and his collection, and other significant collections such as those acquired from Alfred Fairhall and Thomas Cloud, has come through the dogged perseverance of long-serving Minerals volunteer and historian, Mr David Cowen.
The strengths of the Museum’s collection are undoubtedly the fine suites of specimens from South Australian localities, particularly from the copper mines of Burra, Moonta and Wallaroo, as well as secondary minerals from Broken Hill.
The Museum also has a good representation of opals from South Australian fields. The purchase of the Francis Collection in 1996 yielded a further 2,000 specimens to the collection. It included comprehensive coverage of the minerals of the iron formations of the Middleback Ranges, now documented at over 150 species.
The collection has good general coverage of mineral species, with over 1,500 represented, and recent research activities have resulted in the deposition of type specimens of 20 new species.