Postfach 417, A-1014 Wien, Österreich
As with other Imperial collections, there are several phases in the development of the Viennese Mineral Collection, which can ultimately be traced back to the art and curiosity paraphernalia of the renaissance. The oldest known literature references to the oldest mineral samples in the Museum of Natural History of Vienna originate from the famous "Ambrasian Collection" of Archduke Ferdinand II, the Count of Tyrol. They are already mentioned in the original inventory put together one year before the death of the Archduke (PRIMISSER, 1819). Among others, there is mention of one of the best samples of stephanite from Joachimsthal in Bohemia, diverse argentite from the same location, several groups of cassiterite from Schlaggenwald, Bohemia, large quartz crystals from the Zillertal and Ahrntal, several gold and silver nuggets from "Peru" and the well-known pitch-cemented Colombian emerald samples and single crystals. They represent some of the scarce natural samples of specimens from this early collection.
Major portions of the Ambrasian Collection, also containing many minerals, were brought to Vienna in 1806 by the custodian Alois Primisser and were first displayed in the Lower Belvedere. A selection of the minerals was transferred to the k.k. Naturhistorisches Hof-Museum (Imperial and Royal Museum of Natural History). There followed the emerald, previously mentioned in 1881 by order of the office of the Obersthofmeister which was first brought back to Ambras in 1880.
A few "Naturalien" (natural objects) were kept in the Imperial Library in Vienna in the collection of rarities (known at various times as either the art or the treasure chamber) which were then included in the newly founded (Imperial) private collection of Emperor Franz I (i. e., Franz Stephan of Lorraine). Abbé STÜTZ (1807) noted that "Alles, was von diesem Fache bey uns zu finden war, bestand in einigen Klumpen Silber und Gold aus Amerika, wahrscheinlich Geschenke der Könige von Spanien aus dem Hause Habsburg, in dem berühmten, 34 Lothe wiegenden Opale, und einigen wenigen unbedeutenden Mineralien, welche alle mit den verschiedenen Kunstarbeiten aus Bergkrystall, Achat, Jaspis und Elfenbein in der k.k. Schatzkammer aufbewahret wurden" (All that could be found on these matters, consisted of several lumps of silver and gold from America, probably presents from the Kings of Spain to the House of Habsburg, among them the opal weighing 34 Lothe and some insignificant minerals, which were all kept along with quartz crystals, agate, jasper and ivory in the Imperial and Royal Treasure Chamber; STÜTZ, 1807, p 11/12).
Worthy of note are the "lumps of silver and gold from America", which similar to other Imperial collections - even though mainly for reasons of curiosity and presumably as an urge for sensationalism - were collected as geological objects in the major European museums.
The Collection of the Chevalier de Baillou of Florence
The basis of the Vienna Natural History Collection was the former private collection of the Florentine renaissance man Johann von Baillou. Emperor Franz I became Grand Duke of the Tuscany in 1739; crowned Holy Roman Emperor in 1745, he was very partial to the ascending natural sciences. In 1748 he acquired the natural history collection of Johann von Baillou, which, with its approximately 30,000 samples, was the most important European collection of its type. The learned man Joannon de Saint Laurent described it in a publication shortly before this (SAINT LAURENT, 1746).
The "Alte Naturaliensammlung" (Old Natural History Collection)
About the middle of the 18th century, the subject of natural history was not well known within the Habsburg Monarchy. It is possible that this is one of the reasons why Emperor Franz I decided to establish a natural history collection at the Viennese Court, along with the already existing "Physical Cabinet" and the Coin and Antique Collection. The Baillou Collection was transferred to Vienna and put up for display in a room of the Augustine Tract of the Court Library. Furthermore, Johann von Baillou was nominated as the managing director of this new "Naturalien Cabinet" (Natural History Cabinet) for life and his descendants guaranteed the post of director.
At its very beginning, the Vienna Natural History Collection was a private collection of the Emperor and was intended for his delection and continuing interest in natural sciences. At that time, this collection consisted mainly of minerals, fossils, partly of mussels, snails, crustaceans and a few botanical objects. Unfortunately, Saint Laurent's description gives no concrete evidence of certain minerals in this collection and even the first catalogue of the Viennese Mineral Collection, the "Catalogus Stützianus", of the years 1797-1806, only shows very rare indications of these, so that nowadays we only know for certain that a few of the beautiful Colombian emeralds were already part of the former private collection of Johann von Baillou, among others the samples which Franz Stephan of Lorraine, surrounded by the directors of his collections, is shown holding in the painting by Jakob Kohl und Franz Meßmer on the interior staircase leading up the Museum of Natural History. Unfortunately, most of the several thousand samples, which the Emperor must have obtained as part of the Baillou Collection, can no longer be identified because of gaps in the records and to the minerals and fossils, as well as precious and decorative stones acquired by the Imperial Household during the years 1748 and 1797. The same applies to the description of the collection itself, of the comprehensive historical work carried out between the years 1748 and 1802. There is a contradiction in the reports on the "Alte Naturaliensammlung" (Old Natural History Collection), the "Hof-Naturalien-Cabinet" (Court Natural History Cabinet) and the "Kaiserliche Naturalienkammer" (Imperial Natural History Chamber) etc. (i. e. FITZINGER, 1856; BLÖCHINGER vom BANNHOLZ, 1868; HAMANN, 1976).
However, the Emperor was not content to let the purchase of the "Baillou" Collection end his activities. He is reputed to have made a considerable sum of money available, being prepared to have an open mind to problems in natural science. A famous example, possibly apogryphical, is the experiment which Franz Stephan carried out in the co-operation with the Jesuit priest Joseph Franz (1704 - 1776), known for his work in physics, to verify the combustibility of diamonds. He also initiated a series of expeditions that were to supply new material for his collections. For example, Nikolaus von Jacquin and the Imperial gardener Richard van der Schott travelled first to France, from where they shipped minerals among others (FITZINGER, 1856), then to embark on the voyage to Central America. About 50 boxes were brought by Jacquin with species from nature and artefacts to Vienna. Presumably the platinum samples from Choco in Columbia, which are already included in the "Catalogus Stützianus", were part of this shipment. Johann von Baillou dies in 1758 and his son Ludwig Balthasar von Baillou assumes the management of the collection in accordance with the earlier agreement.
Maria Theresia, co-regent in the Habsburg dominions, shared her husband's interest in the sciences. She presented Franz Stephan with the wonderful bouquet of precious stones, which is justifiably considered as the founding object of the precious stone collection of the Viennese Museum. 761 variegated stones and 2,102 diamonds were used in the assembly of this bouquet of jewels - representing a bouquet of flowers, along with diverse artistically reproduced insects, leaves of silk, contained in a vase of rock crystal. Maria Theresia is said to have put this bouquet in the Emperor's Mineral Cabinet one spring morning (FITZINGER, 1856). Traditionally, it is alleged that this is Viennese work; it is ascribed to a Viennese jeweller, Michael von Grosser. However, there is some evidence that the bouquet originates from Georg Gottfried Lautensack, a jeweller from Frankfurt and that Goethe in his youth was already intrigued by the manufacture of this objet d'art (NIEDERMAYR, 1989). Taking historical developments into account, which are dealt with in Goethe's fourth book: "Aus meinem Leben" (From my life), the bouquet must have been almost completed by the year 1763. The Emperor's son, later to be Emperor Joseph II, was crowned King of the Germans in Frankfurt in the year 1765 and died in the summer of the same year.
Maria Theresia continued in the tradition of the Viennese "Naturaliensammlung" (Natural History Collection), but in her personal practical way of thinking, with the consent of her son, then Emperor Joseph II, she assigned all of the Imperial Collections to the supervision of the Oberstkämmerer. In this way the general public was to get to know minerals, which after all are the raw materials of industrial production. It was with the same intention that Maria Theresia founded the first Imperial Mining Academy of the Monarchy in Schemnitz.
The management of the Natural History Collection remained at first in the hands of Ludwig Balthasar Ritter von Baillou (1758-1802); only in 1797 a second director, Andreas Stütz, was appointed. For care and control of the steadily growing collection, Baillou appointed Johann Baptist Megerle on an honorary basis, alongside the court painter Franz Joseph Wiedon, who was to illustrate the natural historical objects. From then (1766) on, the collections were made accessible to the public on a twice weekly basis. However, they were still displayed in accordance with the old system of Chevalier de Baillou. It was specially with minerals, that the desire for possession of mineralogically unusual, even spectacular, took precedence over a systematically ordered mineral domain.
The low scientific standards of her collections appears to have been a thorn in the flesh of Maria Theresia and she appointed Ignaz von Born in 1776, who had already made a name for himself at the Prague mint and Bergrath (mine inspector's) office, to the scientific supervision of the Natural History Collection in Vienna. Although Born revised the Conch Collection in an exemplary manner and had a richly illustrated index published in 1778, the mineralogical specimens were merely displayed newly in accordance with the system of Wallerius and Cronstedt in 1778-1780. For the production of an illustrated catalogue, as had already been done for the Conch Collection, time was evidently too short and the resources inadequate. Apart from Megerle, the curator, Karl Haidinger, a 1778 newly appointed mineralogist, also assisted and was appointed deputy director of the Natural Resources Cabinet as of March 1780. (FITZINGER, 1856).
Born, being a noted earth scientist, as well as a freemason of high standing with numerous contacts, was able to engender a steady flow of mineralogical samples to the Viennese collection. Despite this, precise data are not available from the inventory. It is known that a collection of Sicilian marble, jasper and agate-jasper, as well as lava ejecta from Vesuvius were gifts to Vienna from the Duchess of Calabritto, Petronilla von Ligneville. It is also known that the Bergräthe (mine inspectors) Leithner in Idria, Ruprecht in Schemnitz, Müller in Tyrol and later Siebenbürgen, Ployer in Carinthia and others sent minerals and rocks to Vienna from the mines to which they had access. The transfer of meteorites (Hraschina, Tabor and Miskolcz), previously kept in the Imperial and Royal Treasury, was also arranged by Born.
The mineralogical mining collection of the Imperial Court Secretary Joseph v. Dam was bought by Maria Theresia for a sum of 10,000 guilders, shortly before her death.
Continuing the collecting tradition, Joseph II (1741-1790, Emperor 1765-1790) had the collection adopt more scientific criteria. It was along these lines that a selection of minerals from the collection of his uncle's estate, i.e. that of the General Governor of the Netherlands, Herzog Karl von Lothringen, was made and brought to Vienna. He himself bought, on the occasion of a journey to the Netherlands, a collection of zeolites and chalcedonies from Professor de la Patrie from Hamburg (FITZINGER, 1865).
The earliest survey of new arrangement of the Natural History Collection is published by HAIDINGER (1782). The dissolution of a number of monasteries led partly to the incorporation of their collections in the Natural History Collection.
The Time after Born
Several expeditions to North and Central America, as well as to Africa, were also initiated by Joseph II, which were mainly carried out with the intention of acquiring zoological, botanical and ethnographic specimens for the Viennese collection. One of the participants was Franz Boos, gardening assistant, who also presented the Emperor with two large rock crystals from Madagascar as a gift from the royal French engineer Cossigni. One of these crystals, a beautiful elongated prismatic transparent crystal is displayed to this date in Room I of the Mineral Collection.
Emperor Leopold II (1747-1792) followed Joseph II after the latter's death in 1790 as sovereign. Although he was only two years in office, he also enlarged the extent of the collection by his purchase of the opulent mineral collection of Field Marshall Andreas Count of Hadik. Leopold II was succeeded on the Imperial Throne by Franz II (1768-1835). Due to the events of the Napoleonic Wars, Franz II renounced the Imperial crown of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806, remaining Emperor of Austria as Franz I.
However, long before then, i.e. in 1788, Andreas Xaverius Stütz, Professor of Natural History and Geography and formerly canon of the choirmasters of St. Augustine, becomes Assistant Director of the Natural History Collection, replacing Karl Haidinger, who is appointed Mine and Professor of Mathematics and Mechanics at the Mining Academy in Schemnitz.
Stütz had been long concerned with the geognostic conditions at his native Lower Austria and had published several mineralogical papers. He begins, supported by the custodian Johann Carl Megerle, who particularly took care of the minerals and part of the Mollusc Collection, with the subject which all co-workers had avoided until then, the inventory-taking of specimens from the geosphere. Using these data, a catalogue of specimens of natural historical interest, the "Catalogus Stützianus" was drawn up; it was hand-written, possibly by Stütz himself. Although an entry-book ("Einschreibebuch") had existed since 1780, it was clearly not used in every case and the inventory numbers, issued at a much later date, but still valid to date, are not entered. The same applies to a series of loose-leaf archive-pages and notes by mineralogists from earlier times. The co-ordination of the old pre-1797 mineral samples in the collection is very difficult, if possible at all. As pointed out previously, the "Catalogus Stützianus" augured a new era for the Viennese Mineral Collection.
The "Mineralien-Cabinet" (Mineral Cabinet)
The manner in which the Habsburgian collections were organised, also changed during the time Stütz was in office. Thus, besides the "old natural history collection", located in the Augustinian tract of the Court Library, which Stütz had to administer, there was also the Physical-Astronomic Cabinet, the Arts-Cabinet and the "Natur-Thier-Cabinet" (Nature-Animal Cabinet) at the Josefsplatz. Stütz assumes their management temporarily in 1801, after the death of Ludwig von Baillou, whose son renounced the directorship willed to him by Franz Stephan von Lothringen, the collections are combined and Stütz appointed as sole director in 1802. He is assisted by Johann Baptist Megerle as assistant director, alongside the custodian Johann Carl Megerle. From 1786 onward, the latter carried out work on the organisation of the Natural History Collection on an honorary basis, was made assistant custodian and in 1797 custodian. The title of the new museum is now: "Vereinigte Naturalien-, Physikalisches und Astronomisches Cabinet" (United Natural History, Physical and Astronomic Cabinet); it exists from 1802 to 1806, when Stütz dies, 59 years old. Minerals, rocks, precious and ornamental fossils as well as several meteorites are assigned to the "Mineral Cabinet".
The "Vereinigte k.k. Naturalien-Cabinet" (United Imperial and Royal Natural History Cabinet)
Emperor Franz I. uses this caesura to separate the existing "Physikalisch-Astronomische Cabinet" (Physical-Astronomic Cabinet) from the "Vereinigte k.k. Naturalien-Cabinet" (United Imperial Royal Natural History Cabinet), which will continue its existence until 1851. The management of this new Natural History Museum in Vienna is taken over by Carl von Schreibers, who has already taken part under Leopold II in the revision of the Natural History Collection - although only as a sideline - he has also the Chair of Natural History at the University of Vienna. Schreibers has diverse interests and develops a certain preference for the study of mineralogy and meteorites. However, his main task is, at the particular request of the Emperor, to carry out a complete reorganisation of the collections entrusted in his care. The objective is to reorganise, on a scientific basis the specimens contained, particularly the zoological and botanical specimens, using the Parisian museum as a model.
The younger son of Johann Baptist Megerle (known as von Mühlfeld since 1803), Johann Georg Megerle von Mühlfeld, published the "Mineralogisches Taschenbuch", enthaltend eine Oryctographie von Unterösterreich zum Gebrauche reisender Mineralogen" (Mineralogical compendium containing an oryctography of Unterösterreich for the use of mineralogists on field trips); Mühlfeld had earlier been an honorary assistant in the entomological department of the Imperial Natural Cabinet. Although Stütz had completed this work, it had never been published. The booklet supplies us today with a host of information on sample collection in the greater area of Vienna. Schreibers succeeds also to raise the annual budget for the purchase of minerals significantly. The mineral collection thus acquires steady growth. The inventory of the earth science collection grew within a few years by several thousand specimens. In particular, a series of interesting meteorites - Campo del Cielo ("Tucuman"), Benares, Stannern (refer to "meteorite collection") Acting on Schreiber's proposal, it is arranged to devote a separate display room to these extraterrestrial bodies - the foundation for today's significant meteorite collection of the natural history museum is thus laid. The Abbot Rochus Schüch, already active in the reptile and fish department by 1814, is seconded on a temporary basis to the mineral cabinet, until his departure in 1817 and also holds lectures on mineralogy (FITZINGER, 1868).
Paul Maria Partsch, through his acquaintance with Schüch, becomes into contact with the Mineral Cabinet and assists not only in the work of classification but also with the arrangement and description of the Collection of the Oberstkämmerer and topmost chief of the Imperial Natural History collection, Rudolf Graf von Wrbna-Freudenthal.
In 1817 Schüch gives up his post as custodian to the cabinet to become librarian to archduchess Leopoldine, whom he had instructed in mineralogy. The hope of the Oberstkämmerer Count Wrbna as well as the director Schreibers, that Partsch, working intently on improving his mineralogical training, would secure the post of curator then becoming vacant, are not fulfilled, because of the intrigues of the all-powerful State Counsellor Freiherr von Stifft. Furthermore, Benjamin Scholz, curator there since 1811, resigned from the Mineralogical Cabinet, as he is appointed to the post of professor of chemistry at the "K.k. Polytechnischen Institut" (Imperial Royal Polytechnic Institute), now the Technical University of Vienna.
The marriage of the archduchess Leopoldine to Dom Pedro, Crown Prince of Brazil, induces Emperor Franz to equip a natural historical expedition to explore this giant country. The mineralogical aspects of the mighty enterprise are taken care of by Johannes Emanuel Pohl, acting professor in general natural history at Prague University, who has in State Counsellor von Stifft a benevolent patron. The expedition, in which more than ten persons take part at various times, among them the well-known painter Thomas Ender, lasts almost two decades and brings the Viennese collections rich booty in all areas. The items brought back to Europe are so extensive that a special museum, the so-called "Brazilian Museum" has to be installed in the Harrach House in the Johannesgasse (house No. 7 today). It was only after the closing of this museum in 1836 that the items are assigned to the corresponding collections. Minerals and rocks incorporated into the Naturalia Cabinet are itemised in a separate catalogue.
In 1821 the Mineral Collection is augmented considerably by the legacy of the "K.k. Staatskanzleirath" (Imperial Royal State Counsellor) van Hoppe, whose bequest includes a valuable collection of rings with emeralds, rubies, sapphires and diamonds, partly of the highest quality, as well as the collection of the court jeweller M. Cohen, who enriches it with a suite of raw and cut diamonds and the equipment for their processing.
In 1827, the famous mineral collection of the merchant Jacob Friedrich van der Null (later written as "van der Nüll") and revised and described by Friedrich Mohs is purchased for the Mineral Cabinet. This collection is variously described by contemporaries as the most beautiful and from a oryctognostic viewpoint the most important in Germany. In any case, van der Nüll purchased within approximately ten years no fewer than eleven important private collections, frequented mineral auctions, taking place in Vienna at this time and endeavoured to acquire the best samples from any find coming on the market. He carried out exchanges, tried to display the acquired specimens to their most advantageous and finally gave the mineralogist Friedrich Mohs the assignment to prepare the collection in an orderly manner and to set up a corresponding catalogue, taking the newest information in mineralogy into account (MOHS, 1804). Mohs uses this opportunity to present to his contemporaries his own concept of systematic mineralogy.
Following a proposal by the State Counsellor Freiherr von Stifft, Friedrich Mohs is charged with the task of reorganising the Mineral Collection in the Mineral Cabinet from 1827 onward, where he also holds his lectures until 1835, as he does not consider the corresponding University collection as appropriately suitable. Custodian Johann Carl Megerle von Mühlfeld and Paul Partsch, supervisor at the Mineral Cabinet, assist in the reorganisation of the collection; in addition, Maximilian, nephew to von Mühlfeld, assists voluntarily in this undertaking, which could actually be completed within the same year. The description of this revised collection is edited by PARTSCH (1828) . Apart from the chair at the University of Vienna, Mohs is also nominated to the vacant custodian's position in the Mineral Cabinet.
In September 1835, Mohs is released from his duties as custodian of the Mineral Cabinet and transfers to the Mining Academy (today's Mining University) in Leoben with a position of Bergrath (Mining Inspector). At the same time, Paul Partsch is appointed custodian of the Mineral Cabinet. At the end of 1835, custodian von Mühlfeld, who has custodial care of the collection since Stütz's time, also goes into retirement.
A collection of Russian minerals and rock-types is presented by Czar Nicholas I to Emperor Ferdinand I's "Vereinigte Naturalien-Cabinette" (United Imperial Royal Natural Resources Cabinetts). The most valuable object in this collection is a gold nugget from a secondary sedimentary deposit at Miask in the Urals, weighing 548 grams.
From the inventory of the Mineral Collection in 1844, a large portion of minerals and rocks is diverted and transferred to the newly founded "K.k Montanistisches Museum" (Imperial Royal Mining Museum), the predecessor to today's "Geologische Bundeanstalt" (Federal Geological Survey), Vienna (former the "K.k. Geologische Reichsanstalt / Imperial Royal Geological Institute); founded on 15 November 1849. It was only after the Second World War that parts of these are restored to the "Mineralogisch-Petrographische Abteilung des Naturhistorischen Museums" (Mineralogical-Petrographical Department of the Natural History Museum).
During the revolutionary year of 1848, the Natural Resources Cabinets suffer painful losses, as portions of the collections and the depots in the attic of the Hofburg are set on fire through artillery fire. In particular, the precious private library of Schreibers and many of his scientific notes are lost in the fire. The Mineral Cabinet itself is saved from destruction. Schreibers retires at the end of 1851; he dies on May 21 1852.
The "k.k. Mineralogisches Hof-Cabinet" (Imperial Royal Mineralogical Court-Cabinet)
Following Schreibers' retirement, the young Emperor Franz Joseph I orders the administrative separation of the individual natural resources cabinets. The Mineralogical Court Cabinet lasts from 1851 to 1876 (some reports use the name "k.k. Hofmineraliencabinet", labels with the heading "k.k. Mineralogisches Museum" were in use at that time). In each of the cabinets the custodian in charge is also the head; from 1867 the director. Partsch becomes head of the Minerals Cabinet, working there until his early death on the 3 October 1856. His pupil, Moriz Hoernes, who had been working at the Cabinet from 1836, is nominated custodian in 1856. At this time, the Cabinet also encompasses the subjects of geology and palaeontology, both of these are separated from the Mineralogy Collection through the further revisions carried out under Emperor Franz Joseph in 1876.
The palaeontological-geological faculty is represented above all through four gentlemen at the Mineralogical Court Cabinet: Moriz Hoernes, Mathias Auinger, Theodor Fuchs and Eduard Suess. The mineralogical and petrographical work discipline at the Cabinet is represented in particular through Wilhelm Joseph Grailich, Gustav Adolph Kenngott, Albrecht Schrauf, Gustav Tschermak and Aristides Brezina. The directorship is held by Moriz Hoernes which he had assumed from his uncle, Paul Partsch. As a scientist, Hoernes enjoys an excellent international reputation. This may perhaps be the reason why the mineralogical cabinet is the recipient of an unusual present in 1859. Prince Anatolij Nikolajewitsch Demidoff, owner of the platinum conglomerate basin at Nischne Tagilsk in the Urals and well known for his patronage, donates a platinum nugget weighing 6.2 kg to Director Hoernes. Noteworthy is that not the Emperor receives this noble gift, but a museum official in the Monarchy - without doubt, this is a highly unusual procedure. The nugget is the second largest existing of its type today.
Gustav Tschermak succeeds Hoernes in 1868 in the management of the Cabinet. Schrauf edits a new edition of the Library Catalogue of the Court Mineral Cabinet and begins with work preparation for an "Atlas der Krystallformen des Mineralreiches, Wien 1865-1878" (Atlas of Crystal Forms in the Mineral Realm, Vienna 1865-1878), which he unfortunately could not complete. Schrauf is called to the Chair of Mineralogy at the University of Vienna in 1874 and leaves the Cabinet. Shortly thereafter - in 1877 - Tschermak leaves the service at the Mineralogical Court Cabinet and transfers to an institute created for him at the University of Vienna. From 1855 until 1859, the successor to Gustav Adolph Kenngott in the office of assistant custodian for the Cabinet is Josef Wilhelm Grailich. He is considered the spiritual creator of the "Verein zur Verbreitung naturwissenschaftlicher Kenntnisse" (Association for the Dissemination of Information on the Natural Sciences) at the University of Vienna.
The "K.k. Mineralogisch - Petrographische Abteilung des Naturhistorischen Hof-Museums" (Imperial Royal Mineralogical - Petrographical Department of the Natural History Court Museum)
With time, all of the Viennese collections experience a steady growth in their inventories, so much that space is at a premium. There is debate on relocating individual collections, but only the receipt of a hand-written note by the Emperor finally raises the hope that the collections will be allocated more space to relieve this situation. It is also was the harbinger of a new era for these collections.
There is considerable interest in information on the natural sciences and the encouragement of this interest seems to have been a concern of the young sovereign: "Dem Reiche der Natur und seiner Erforschung Kaiser FRANZ JOSEPH I" (To the realm of nature and its exploration - Emperor FRANZ JOSEF I) was later to be written on the face of the newly built Imperial Royal Natural History Court Museum, thus documenting the benevolent sentiment of the Imperial Household. Excavations for the construction of this new Museum of Nature started in the fall of 1871, the building was completed ten years later.
On the 29th of April 1876 Emperor Franz Joseph I signs the document certifying the existence of the entity of the Natural History Court Museum. Ferdinand von Hochstetter is appointed as the managing director of the museum. Hochstetter proposes a new organisation for the museum and its collections. Four departments having far-reaching autonomies are to be successors to the older Cabinets; the Imperial Royal Mineralogical Court Cabinet is divided in a Imperial Royal Mineralogical - Petrographical Department and an Imperial Royal Geologic-Paleontologic Department. The petrologist and meteorite specialist Aristides Brezina takes over the management of the former and is supported by the scientific colleagues: Friedrich Berwerth, Rudolf Koechlin and Felix Karrer. The last two named provide voluntary unpaid services. Felix Karrer is Secretary of the Wissenschaftlicher Club (Science Club) and founder of the building-stone collection of the department. By 1886 Köchlin is scientific assistant and later on maintains an inventory of the collection and even keeps a diary.
Hochstetter dies on 18 July 1884 and thus does not live to see the completion of a house for whose founding he had been so actively engaged. His successor as superintendent is Franz R. von Hauer, a geologist and palaeontologist.
In the presence of the Emperor, the new "K.k. Naturhistorisches Hofmuseum" (Imperial Royal Court-museum) is inaugurated on the 10th of August 1889. At first it is open to visitors four days a week - free on Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays, on Tuesdays for an admission price of one guilder Austrian currency. The house and the collection it contains turn out to be highly popular. From August 13th to the end of December 1889 the museum counted 175,000 visitors, of which 134,000 visited the museum during the 19 Sundays over this time span alone.
During this significant year, the "Mineralogisch-Petrographische Abteilung" (Department of Mineralogy-Petrography) is under the directorship of Aristides Brezina.
In 1889, the renowned collection of William Earl Hidden from Newark (USA) is purchased for a sum of 15,000 fl. with the aid of an advance from the "All highest Family Fund" of the Imperial Household. The repayment of this loan must be repaid in a series of complicated transactions, effected within a time-frame of ten years (i.e. through the sale of mineral doublets, meteorite sections and precious metal redemptions). Unfortunately these redemptions included also samples of silver and gold from the former "Ambrasian Collection" of Archduke Ferdinand II, an irreplaceable loss and impairment to the collection. Despite this, the acquisition of the "Hidden Collection" is of special significance for the Viennese museum. After all, the collection was considered at that time as the second best private mineral collection in the United States, outranked only by the famous Clarence S. Bement Collection, which was later to be acquired by the American Museum of Natural History in New York.
In the same year, several items from the former private collection of Crown-Prince Rudolf, who had committed suicide, were passed on to the department, although apparently this was against his will; the Crown-Prince had left his natural history collection to Viennese teaching institutions.In accordance with these terms, the geologic and palaeontological collection and his mineral collection were to be passed to the "K.k. Hochschule für Bodenkultur" (Imperial Royal University for Agriculture). Instead, the glass imitations of precious stones and some other mineralogical items were entrusted to the Natural History Court Museum.
Koechlin becomes an assistant in 1892 and is promoted to assistant custodian in 1896. In the same year, Friedrich Berwerth is put in charge of the department, taking over from Aristides Brezina, who retires on the 30th of August. Voluntary, unpaid assistance, from 1896 to the end of the Monarchy is provided by Felix Karrer, already mentioned often before, alternately by Anton Pelinka, Hermann Graber, Friedrich Wachter and Karl Hlawatsch. In one last transaction before the collapse of the Monarchy, the museum manages to purchase over the years 1906-07 the magnificent collection of Staatsrath Freiherr von Braun (totalling more than 2,500 items, doublets not included). There follows the far less important collections of August von Loehr, Rudolf von Görgey, although these were not entirely taken into inventory, the delay being due to the war and subsequent poor economic conditions, until after the Second World War (the same happened to the collection of Friedrich Freiherr von Distler, acquired 1932).
A patron of note at the turn of the 19th century is Kommerzialrat Isidor Weinberger. He is one of the great sponsors of mineralogy and the collection of the Court Museum in Vienna is indebted to him for many a beautiful specimen. Thus, the large specimen of amethyst sample from Serra do Mar in Brazil, weighing about 450 kg, donated by him, is today a particularly prominent component and can be admired in the Hall of Precious Stones of the museum. Particularly valuable are the more than 500 meteorite thin sections, formerly in the possession of Aristides Brezina, custodian and former director, which Weinberger was to purchase and later present to the museum.
The "Mineralogisch - Petrographische Abteilung" (Mineralogical - Petrographical Department) after World War I
The end of the Monarchy brings about changes in the organisation of the former Natural History Court Museum. To satisfy the terms of the Peace Treaty of St. Germain, it becomes the property of the Austrian state. The board of management is dissolved; the last director, Franz Steindachner, retires. The Museum of Natural History is attached to the State Office for Education, later to be the Federal Ministry of Education. The managers of the five departments of the house are granted greater autonomy. The program of the whole museum is supervised by a council having nine members. Berwerth, the director of the Mineralogical - Petrographical Department retires, dying shortly thereafter. The custodian Ferdinand Wachter, who had done research work in the Hohe Tauern (Central Eastern Alps) together with Berwerth, withdraws from active service for health reasons. Management of the department is taken over by Koechlin. He is also elected chairman of the Museum Council. Supporting him in the work of the department, from April 1919 onward is his assistant Hermann Michel. Both are also members of the Council of the Viennese Mineralogical Society (from 24 November 1947: Austrian Mineralogical Society). Furthermore, Michel is manager of the "Technische Untersuchungsanstalt für Edelsteine" (Technical Analysis Institute for precious stones) and a legally recognized expert for the Commercial Arbitration Court in Vienna. Koechlin becomes director of the Mineralogical - Petrographical Department, retiring with the grade of Hofrat in 1922 in which year Michel was appointed custodian.
The political turbulences of the times between the wars also have their impact on the activities of the department. Although this period is marked by an addition of about 12,000 objects to the collection, no major purchases are made - apart from the acquisition of the meteorite of Lanzenkirchen which had fallen on August 28, 1925, which could only be obtained with the support of the "Friends of the Museum of Natural History". It was not until 1932 that Alfred Schiener joins the department as a voluntary helper, becoming provisional scientific assistant in 1936.
Beginning in 1923, Hermann Michel first becomes manager, later in the same year director of the department and in 1933 head of the entire museum until the annexation of Austria by Germany. Despite financial limitations and administrative activity as managing director, Michel was at first able to intensify research activities in the department. Research on precious stones, initiated by him in 1938, is continued by Hubert Scholler after World War II to maintain the tradition. In 1938, after Austria was incorporated into the Third Reich, Michel is released from his position of managing director, but management of the Mineralogical - Petrographical Department remains in his hands. In the fall of 1938, Heinz Meixner becomes scientific assistant in the department, becoming custodian in 1940. Meixner is a keen, even fanatic mineral topographer. Attendance, maintenance and care of the mineral collection is thus assured.
The outbreak of World War II brought a slowdown in scientific activities and in particular in the display collection activities and with it the function of the Mineralogical - Petrographical Department, leading gradually to a complete halt. Already in the early summer of 1939 the meteorite collection and the precious stone collection are removed from the show rooms and packed in containers for air-raid protection. These measures are carried out to prevent the pilferage or illegal removal of valuable items from the museum. With the onset of war, large sections of the collection and the library are at first deposited in chambers on the ground floor, later in other more secure areas in Vienna and at Kirchstetten Castle near Staatz in Lower Austria. During the late fall of 1944, further sections of the display collection (i.e., minerals and rocks), as well as from the extensive storage, are moved to a salt mine at Lauffen near Ischl. Deposition operations are carried out under Michel's direction; there is no significant damage to material from the collections due to these activities. The mineral collection is thus one of the few in central Europe that have never been subject to any significant damage in times of trouble. This fortunate circumstance enhances its scientific and cultural-historical significance.
Meixner loses his position after the collapse of the national socialist regime and the restoration of Austria as an independent state. Michel resumes the position of managing director of the museum in 1947 and continues in this function until 1951. Hubert Scholler is appointed provisional scientific assistant and is given the grade of custodian 2nd class. A very important acquisition at this time is the transfer of substantial collection material (minerals, ores and rocks) from the Federal Geologic Survey to the department, which had previously been reserved from the doublets inventory of the Minerals Cabinet for the Imperial Royal Mining Museum, at that time at the planning stage. These had been put aside in accordance with the directives of the supervisory authority governing designated occurrences, among others, those minerals and rocks, which had earlier been assigned in 1844 from the doublets inventory of the Minerals Cabinet. There are also other substantial stocks from this institute assigned to the department; among these is the "Friese" Collection".
The former collection of the Count von Breunner, which constitutes the basis of the k.k. Montanistische (Mining) Museum, the fore-runner of the k.k. Geologische Reichsanstalt (Geological Survey) is also transferred in this transaction. In addition there were many items shipped by mining officials of the Monarchy and co-workers of the Institute. Up to the middle of the 1960's, packaged materials stayed in boxes; after appraisal, large portions were added to complement the inventory of the department, where needed. During the years thereafter, doublets were used in exchange, thereby to a degree compensating for the budgetary short-fall, enabling the acquisition of further valuable material. By far the largest part of the specimens remain as doublets within the department.
Scholler is not entirely well. He avoids fieldwork, but instead assiduously clears the backlog of work on the older parts of the collection, which reached as far back as the end of the Monarchy and devotes the remainder of his time to gemmology, the museum archives, as well as popular education. Scholler continues the tradition of the examination of gems at the Museum, as established by Michel. This leads in 1954 to the founding of the State Institute for Gemmology at the Natural History Museum, but which remains attached to the Mineralogical - Petrographical Department.
Schiener's particular task is the work with the mineral collection and his special field is mineralization within the Gastein area. He had already become the head of the department in 1949, becoming its director in 1953.
He dies suddenly on August 23, 1962. Management of the Department is transferred to Hubert Scholler. Within this time, work on modifying the systematic minerals and meteorite show collections was begun - assisted by Gero Kurat, who starts his service in the department in 1962. Scholler becomes director of the department in 1964. In January of the same year, Gerhard Niedermayr begins his service in the department. He continues with the classification of the Meteorite Show Collection and later with the Mineral Show Collection. The collection is rearranged in accordance with the Klockmann - Ramdohr system, using the organisation of Strunz for the new display.
After the retirement of Hubert Scholler, Karl Rechinger, director of the Botanical Department and concurrently managing director of the Museum of Natural History also provisionally directs the Mineralogical - Petrographical Department with the beginning of 1967. As from July 1, 1968 Gero Kurat is provisionally appointed to direct the department. The former director Hubert Scholler continues with his research work in gemmology until his death on April 27, 1968. During an absence abroad of Gero Kurat of almost one year (from November 1, 1970 to September 30, 1971), the present managing director and simultaneous director of the Department of Geology and Mineralogy, Friedrich Bachmayer, is provisionally in charge of the department. The financial and personnel situation within the Department shows a gradual improvement.
Walter Cadaj is active in the department from August 1, 1968. As an employee, Hans Klob is active in the Department from the beginning of 1970; he goes on leave as of September 1, 1971 and ceases to be on the personnel roster as of May 29, 1972. Robert Seemann, employee, takes on Klob's assignments as of September 1, 1971. Other scientific additions to the staff are Alfred Kracher (1977 - 1982), Franz Brandstätter from February 1, 1982 and Vera Hammer (from April 1, 1992). Working within the department on scientific research projects financed by the "Fonds zur Förderung der wissenschaftlichen Forschung" (Austrian Science Foundation) on a time-limited basis includes the following: Georg Hoinkes (1972 - 1974), Alfred Kracher (until 1977), Rainer Schultz - Güttler(1977), Franz Brandstätter (until1982), Theodoros Ntaflos (until 1992), Thomas Presper (1992 - 1994), Jürgen Walter (1994 - 1995) and Cecile Engrand (1996).
During the 1970's, important acquisitions, from new inland and foreign finds, partly through purchase and partly through exchange, could again be made in increasing measure. The show collection facility is modernised and illumination of the collection is gradually begun. A beginning is made with Hall IV, which is devoted to the collection of the newly displayed Gem Collection. The entire show-collection is closed during the years 1973 to 1975 for renovation work. Halls I - III are reopened in 1976; the Hall of Gems (Hall IV) is ceremoniously reopened on November 8 1977. Specially secure showcases enable the viewing of the most valuable parts of the collection.
Enormous improvements could be made in the instruments with which the Department is equipped. This includes the step-wise acquisition of a modern Zeiss microscope, an electron beam microprobe (1974), modern X-ray diffractometers (1975 and 1995), a electron scanning microscope (1990) with an energy-dispersive analysis auxiliary and a Leitz research microscope (1994), almost all with the financial support of the Research Fund). The chemical laboratory and sample preparation equipment are also renovated. In the course of installing subterranean storage for the Museum, a new depository hall for the Department of Mineralogy and Petrography is constructed. An extension to the library, long overdue, is also completed.
The Department of Mineralogy and Petrography and its Collections today.
As of January 1 1997 the Department has a total staff complement of ten employees, of which five are professionals. The total number of items in the inventory amounts to about 150,000 (the number of items is actually much higher). About 15% of the items carried is exhibited and accessible to the public (about one-fifth of the items in the Mineral Collection are displayed, in the Meteorite Collection approximately 50% can be seen).
The significance of the Mineral Collection is the multiplicity of items coming from occurrences on the territory of the former Austro-Hungarian Monarchy and its alpine regions. Specimens from many of the "classical" deposits in Germany, Russia, England, Italy and other countries are also represented. Selectivity must be practised in the acquisitions, in view of the rather modest financial means available, emphasis being on world-wide "alpine paragenesis", selected pegmatite paragenesis (e. g., Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nepal), new gems and ornamental and synthesised material, new meteorite finds and meteorite falls and the application of the mineral classification system for the new additions.
There are five exhibition halls, in which the available items can be seen by the visitor.