Artistic Geology in Lausanne

Cantonal Museum of Geology, Musée cantonal de géologie, Lausanne, Switzerland

The museums within the Palais Rumine are very odd.  You never quite know what you’re going to get.

Founded in 1818, the Geology Museum joined the Rumine Palace when it was inaugurated at the beginning of the 20th century.  It was originally set up as a result of Tsar Alexander I’s gift of about one thousand minerals to his teacher, Frédéric-César de La Harpe, an important political figure in Swiss history – but naturally the collection has been added to over the years.

Currently there are two halves to the museum: one is dedicated to fossils and the like, while the other looks at minerals.  Let’s look at the latter first.

Rocks and Minerals

I am not very knowledgable about geology, but I am fascinated by the amazing things the earth creates.  It’s sometimes incredibly astonishing to see what the combination of different minerals can produce when exposed to a bit of heat or pressure or both.  The displays in the museum were neatly arranged and let you look at the objects through fairly clear glass and with good lighting, so you get to see the way some of them sparkle or glisten.

Cantonal Museum of Geology, Lausanne, Switzerland

Cantonal Museum of Geology, Lausanne, Switzerland

There was a display of objects that were ‘everyday’, which was very interesting – I particularly liked seeing quartz and the microprocessor.  People are very clever with what they can make – but isn’t nature more amazing for providing the materials in the first place?

Aspirin, Cantonal Museum of Geology, Lausanne, Switzerland

Aspirin, Cantonal Museum of Geology, Lausanne, Switzerland

Salt from Wroclaw, Poland, Cantonal Museum of Geology, Lausanne, Switzerland

Salt from Wroclaw, Poland, Cantonal Museum of Geology, Lausanne, Switzerland

Quartz from the Swiss Alps, Silex from Pas de Cheville, Switzerland, Cantonal Museum of Geology, Lausanne, Switzerland.  The microprocessor uses silicon extracted from quartz.

Quartz from the Swiss Alps, Silex from Pas de Cheville, Switzerland, Cantonal Museum of Geology, Lausanne, Switzerland.  The microprocessor uses silicon extracted from quartz.

Then there were the precious stones, which, in context, look pretty dull.

Ruby from Jagdali, Afghanistan, Cantonal Museum of Geology, Lausanne, Switzerland

Ruby from Jagdali, Afghanistan, Cantonal Museum of Geology, Lausanne, Switzerland

The little arrow is pointing to a teeny diamond, Cantonal Museum of Geology, Lausanne, Switzerland

The little arrow is pointing to a teeny diamond, Cantonal Museum of Geology, Lausanne, Switzerland

But what I ended up by becoming utterly fascinated with were the amazing shapes that are created by nature.

Halite formed in cubes, Wieliczka, Poland, Cantonal Museum of Geology, Lausanne, Switzerland

Halite formed in cubes, Wieliczka, Poland, Cantonal Museum of Geology, Lausanne, Switzerland

Calcite that thinks it's a dragon, from Matlock, England, Cantonal Museum of Geology, Lausanne, Switzerland

Calcite that thinks it’s a dragon, from Matlock, England, Cantonal Museum of Geology, Lausanne, Switzerland

Gypsum from Naples, Italy, Cantonal Museum of Geology, Lausanne, Switzerland

Gypsum from Naples, Italy, Cantonal Museum of Geology, Lausanne, Switzerland

Galene from the Sweetwater Mine, Missouri, USA, Cantonal Museum of Geology, Lausanne, Switzerland

Galene from the Sweetwater Mine, Missouri, USA, Cantonal Museum of Geology, Lausanne, Switzerland

Elbaite from Pedemeira, Brazil, Cantonal Museum of Geology, Lausanne, Switzerland

Elbaite from Pedemeira, Brazil, Cantonal Museum of Geology, Lausanne, Switzerland

Elbaite from Clayenzee Mine, Namibia, Cantonal Museum of Geology, Lausanne, Switzerland.  It looked like natural stained glass.

Elbaite from Clayenzee Mine, Namibia, Cantonal Museum of Geology, Lausanne, Switzerland.  It looked like natural stained glass.

"Owl eye" Malachite from the DR of Congo, Cantonal Museum of Geology, Lausanne, Switzerland.  Look into my eyes...

“Owl eye” Malachite from the DR of Congo, Cantonal Museum of Geology, Lausanne, Switzerland.  Look into my eyes…

Malachite from Shaba, Congo, Cantonal Museum of Geology, Lausanne, Switzerland

Malachite from Shaba, Congo, Cantonal Museum of Geology, Lausanne, Switzerland

Deformed crystals of Stibine, Lunsugang, China, Cantonal Museum of Geology, Lausanne, Switzerland

Deformed crystals of Stibine, Lunsugang, China, Cantonal Museum of Geology, Lausanne, Switzerland

There was a little room in the centre of the museum which was shrouded in darkness.  And there were all of these glowing jewels… then the lights came up, and there were these grubby, boring bits of rock.

I had read about the fluorescent nature of some minerals, but never seen it – it was very cool seeing them in action, as it were.

Display of fluorescent minerals, Cantonal Museum of Geology, Lausanne, Switzerland

Display of fluorescent minerals, Cantonal Museum of Geology, Lausanne, Switzerland

Esperite and Willemite from Frankin, New Jersey, USA, Cantonal Museum of Geology, Lausanne, Switzerland

Esperite and Willemite from Frankin, New Jersey, USA, Cantonal Museum of Geology, Lausanne, Switzerland

Calcite from Nuevo Leon, Mexico, Cantonal Museum of Geology, Lausanne, Switzerland

Calcite from Nuevo Leon, Mexico, Cantonal Museum of Geology, Lausanne, Switzerland

But then just as you’re admiring what has been created on earth, you see a range of objects that have come from outer space.  Awesome!

Meteroite octaedrite IIB, found in Xiquipilco, Mexico, Cantonal Museum of Geology, Lausanne, Switzerland 

Meteroite octaedrite IIB, found in Xiquipilco, Mexico, Cantonal Museum of Geology, Lausanne, Switzerland

Extraterrestrial fragment, found in Libya, Cantonal Museum of Geology, Lausanne, Switzerland

Extraterrestrial fragment, found in Libya, Cantonal Museum of Geology, Lausanne, Switzerland

Extraterrestrial Meteorite ataxite IVB, found in Siberia, Russia, Cantonal Museum of Geology, Lausanne, Switzerland

Extraterrestrial Meteorite ataxite IVB, found in Siberia, Russia, Cantonal Museum of Geology, Lausanne, Switzerland

And then we bump back down to earth.  There is a considerable amount of space dedicated to the rocks and minerals found locally in Vaud, the Alps and Switzerland generally.

Display of some of the rocks beneath our feet in the Cantonal Museum of Geology, Lausanne, Switzerland

Display of some of the rocks beneath our feet in the Cantonal Museum of Geology, Lausanne, Switzerland

Schist with awesome Art Deco lines, Dent de Morcles, Switzerland, Cantonal Museum of Geology, Lausanne, Switzerland

Schist with awesome Art Deco lines, Dent de Morcles, Switzerland, Cantonal Museum of Geology, Lausanne, Switzerland

Asbestos from Goppenstein, Switzerland, Cantonal Museum of Geology, Lausanne, Switzerland

Asbestos from Goppenstein, Switzerland, Cantonal Museum of Geology, Lausanne, Switzerland

The geology of Switzerland, Cantonal Museum of Geology, Lausanne, Switzerland

The geology of Switzerland, Cantonal Museum of Geology, Lausanne, Switzerland

Fossils

This section of the museum feels very late 19th century, which really suits the nature of the objects.  There are some really fascinating fossils which, for someone who is used to looking at things from Ancient Egypt onwards, were just so unfathomably old… I mean, how can something be 450 million years old?  The world is just amazing.

Dinosaur with a doughnut eye-socket, Cantonal Museum of Geology, Lausanne, Switzerland

Dinosaur with a doughnut eye-socket, Cantonal Museum of Geology, Lausanne, Switzerland

Fruit from Tropical Trees, 23 million years, Bellevue, Lausanne, Cantonal Museum of Geology, Lausanne, Switzerland

Fruit from Tropical Trees, 23 million years, Bellevue, Lausanne, Cantonal Museum of Geology, Lausanne, Switzerland

Walnut tree leaf, 23 million years, Cheseaux, Vaud, Cantonal Museum of Geology, Lausanne, Switzerland

Walnut tree leaf, 23 million years, Cheseaux, Vaud, Cantonal Museum of Geology, Lausanne, Switzerland

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Imprint of the skin of a lepidodendron, 310 million years, Anzin, France, Cantonal Museum of Geology, Lausanne, Switzerland

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Imprint of the skin of a lepidodendron, 310 million years, Valenciennes, France, Cantonal Museum of Geology, Lausanne, Switzerland

Imprint of a Palm, 23 million years, Mon Repos, Lausanne, Cantonal Museum of Geology, Lausanne, Switzerland

Imprint of a Palm, 23 million years, Mon Repos, Lausanne, Cantonal Museum of Geology, Lausanne, Switzerland

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Conifer tree trunk, petrified in silica, 23 million years, Wadi Natrun, Egypt, Cantonal Museum of Geology, Lausanne, Switzerland

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Marine cemetery, 450 million years, Erfoud, Morocco, Cantonal Museum of Geology, Lausanne, Switzerland

Ammonite, with its parsley pattern structure highlighted in paint, 180 million years, Lyon, France, Cantonal Museum of Geology, Lausanne, Switzerland

Ammonite, with its parsley pattern structure highlighted in paint, 180 million years, Lyon, France, Cantonal Museum of Geology, Lausanne, Switzerland

Giant mammoth and elk thing, Cantonal Museum of Geology, Lausanne, Switzerland

Giant mammoth and elk thing, Cantonal Museum of Geology, Lausanne, Switzerland

Fossil of Atoposaurus, Kelheim, Germany, Cantonal Museum of Geology, Lausanne, Switzerland

Fossil of Atoposaurus, Kelheim, Germany, Cantonal Museum of Geology, Lausanne, Switzerland

Fossil of Pterodactylus scolopaciceps, Eichstädt, Germany, Cantonal Museum of Geology, Lausanne, Switzerland

Fossil of Pterodactylus scolopaciceps, Eichstädt, Germany, Cantonal Museum of Geology, Lausanne, Switzerland

But this guy is my favourite…

Fossil of a Gallinuloides wyomingensis, an ancestor of the chicken, Wyoming, USA, Cantonal Museum of Geology, Lausanne, Switzerland.  They say an ancestor of the chicken, I say an ancestor of Roadrunner.  Beep beep!

Fossil of a Gallinuloides wyomingensis, an ancestor of the chicken, Wyoming, USA, Cantonal Museum of Geology, Lausanne, Switzerland.  They say an ancestor of the chicken, I say an ancestor of Roadrunner.  Beep beep!

So In Summary

The museum has some interesting objects and I found it all strangely fascinating, and sometimes really beautiful – though I think I was in the mood to look at things which I know nothing about.  Usually I don’t visit natural history museums, so I can’t really compare the displays to what other places have, but you feel that the curators like their collection and they show it off very well.  If you are visiting the Palais Rumine for one of the other museums anyway, I would definitely recommend a visit to the Geology Museum as well.

Further Information

The museum has its own website (in French, but with a few English pages): www.unil.ch

Also, there is a shop by the entrance of the Palais Rumine which sells some nice pieces of quartz and whatnot.

How To Get There

Please check out the entry on the Palais Rumine for details.

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