Stories from the Lithotheque (02)

It was on the last day of the Munich Min­er­al Days of 1999. The Micro­mounter Work­ing Group had its own booth for the sec­ond year in a row. A gen­tle­man we did not know before appeared at the booth and intro­duced him­self: “My name is Klaus Fleck. I deal in sys­tem­at­ics min­er­als and would like to get out of this busi­ness. There is still a lot of mer­chan­dise in my house that I would like to part with. For this I see only the pos­si­bil­i­ty of throw­ing away or giv­ing away.” It was not dif­fi­cult for us to con­vince him that giv­ing away was the bet­ter solu­tion. So we made an appoint­ment to pick up the spec­i­men from him.

A few weeks lat­er, Klaus Fleck­’s house was free of mer­chan­dise. But the lath cel­lar of our apart­ment in Heim­stet­ten was no longer acces­si­ble and the idea of the Lithothek was born. In the Min­er­al Atlas we have described in more detail how it came about and how in the weeks after that the idea of the Lithothek became con­crete. In the Min­er­al Atlas details about this process are described under the search term “Klaus Fleck”.

The year 2000 was filled with prepara­to­ry work. Mr. Fleck­’s mate­r­i­al had to be pre­pared (What goes into the Lithothek? What will be dis­trib­uted in the work­ing group? What is to be sold?), a data­base sys­tem for the col­lec­tion doc­u­men­ta­tion had to be found and much more. It was only in 2001 that we could start with the actu­al con­struc­tion of the Lithothek.

He dealt main­ly with sys­tem­at­ics min­er­als, which often have names that we heard for the first time at that time and which seemed very exot­ic to us. Also the names of the local­i­ties were not famil­iar to us. They were often locat­ed in coun­tries that none of us had ever trav­eled to. Get­ting the infor­ma­tion we need­ed from the lit­er­a­ture was exceed­ing­ly dif­fi­cult. Also, the inter­net was not real­ly devel­oped in the ear­ly years of the 21st cen­tu­ry, the min­er­al atlas was as much in its infan­cy as our lithotheque. To give just one exam­ple among many: How should we deal with a spec­i­men that bore the name win­stan­leyite and was sup­posed to come from Arizona?

We made life easy for our­selves at first. The spec­i­men was giv­en a num­ber and incor­po­rat­ed into the col­lec­tion with exact­ly the infor­ma­tion we had. We showed courage for the gap and paid the price for it that many data need­ed in itself were miss­ing in our new­ly emerg­ing col­lec­tion, or at least were not as accu­rate as we would have liked.

In our doc­u­men­ta­tion, each col­lec­tion object was to be pro­vid­ed with a qual­i­ty char­ac­ter­is­tic, where­by the eval­u­a­tion options from “very good” to “poor” were avail­able to us. Due to the lack of com­par­a­tive pos­si­bil­i­ties and our own expe­ri­ence, it was dif­fi­cult for us to reli­ably eval­u­ate these lev­els, so almost all of them received the qual­i­ty lev­el “poor”.

Some­times sim­ple solu­tions are the best. This was prob­a­bly also the case in this instance, which only became appar­ent again and again in lat­er years (and still today). At some point (some­times only years lat­er) a piece was donat­ed to us from a com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent source with the same name and a sim­i­lar loca­tion. Only now we had pos­si­bil­i­ties for com­par­i­son, which we also used. Also the pos­si­bil­i­ties for research had improved con­sid­er­ably. And of course our own lev­el of knowl­edge was much higher.

The result of our com­par­i­son work was basi­cal­ly always the same: In the vast major­i­ty of cas­es, we were able to deter­mine that Klaus Fleck­’s spec­i­mens were cor­rect­ly iden­ti­fied. Often, how­ev­er, the new­ly added spec­i­men pro­vid­ed clues to the more exact local­i­ty. Almost always we were allowed to deter­mine that we had under­es­ti­mat­ed the spec­i­men of Klaus Fleck orig­i­nal­ly and from igno­rance clear­ly, which we could cor­rect now.

Only in rare cas­es did the com­par­i­son raise ques­tions, which then led us to have one of the two or even both com­par­i­son pieces ana­lyzed. So far, it has not hap­pened that Klaus Fleck­’s piece turned out to be wrong and there­fore had to be tak­en out of the lithotheque.

Klaus Fleck was not a col­lec­tor at any time. At least he nev­er col­lect­ed micro­mounts or small spec­i­mens. A kind of col­lec­tion only came into being after he had part­ed with his stock and we part­ly inte­grat­ed his mate­r­i­al into our lithotheque. We often and glad­ly think back to him and thus the begin­nings of our project.

Brookite from Mag­net Cove in Arkansas Win­stan­leyite from Grand Cen­tral Mine
IW = 3,5 mm, (A003 079)
Win­stan­leyite from the Grand Cen­tral Mine; Tomb­stone, Cochise Co., Ari­zona
IW = 2,3 mm, (A000 074)

Told by Dr. M. Seitz