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.

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?

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

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

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.

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!

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.

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.

But the last guy is my favourite…

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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