October 21, 2013

Opening of the MIM museum in Beirut, Lebanon.

Opening of the MIM museum in Beirut, Lebanon.

Here we were. At the mineralogical event of the year: the opening of the MIM museum in Beirut. I heard so much about the minerals in this collection! At shows, when I was impressed with such or such mineral, I was often told by some dealers: “oh, well, you should see the one from this new museum in Beirut!”. Gold from Venezuela? Oh, there is better in the Beirut museum. Jeremejevite? There is better in the Beirut museum. Aquamarine spray? There is better in the Beirut museum. It was going on and on! But what was it about, and who was building this collection?

The answer was: Mr. Salim Eddé, chemist, with a passion for minerals. Mr. Eddé is fascinated by these naturally beautiful crystals, which arrange perfectly from the atomic to the macroscopic scale. Minerals which are not only interesting for their aesthetic but also for their use in our every day life: whatever it is, metals, rare earth elements (used in computers, cell phone, etc.), building blocks, ceramic, name it, minerals were mostly involved in it.

Mr. Eddé wanted to create a museum that was elegant, meaningful, educative, with the main focus being gorgeous minerals. And he did. With the help of Jean-Claude Boulliard, curator of the Sorbonne collection (hosted at the Pierre and Marie Curie University in Paris), they gathered over the last 16 years some of the most beautiful minerals. The museum offers a total of 1480 minerals (300 species) from 60 different countries, over 1300 m² (14,000 sq ft) of 9 galleries.

As a representative of the USA and of a museum, I have been invited to the opening of the MIM. I would like to share my experience of my few days in Lebanon with you!

Leaving Los Angeles Airport of Thursday afternoon, I landed at 10pm on Friday night (October 11th). Right on time to meet with other guests at a dinner organized by Mr. Salim Eddé, in downtown Beirut. Well, it was not a dinner. It was more like a feast! Delicious mezze platters arrived on our table all night long!


In the center, Mr. Salim Eddé is orchestrating the dinner.
Just not enough room on the table!
Some amazing fish…
… that Daniel Trinchillo from Fine Minerals International really enjoyed!
Finishing beautifully.
Among guests, Mr. Eddé’s colleagues, friends and mineral dealers who supplied some goodies to the museum.
Eventually, guests departed to have a good night rest at the Smallville hotel. We were all excited to get up in the morning and have a private visit of the museum! The MIM is hosted at the Saint-Joseph University in Beirut.


Mr. Salim Eddé in front of the main building of the Saint-Joseph University.
Getting ready for the private tour with Mr. Eddé.
To enter the museum, one has to enter the gift shop. The museum itself is located on the basement, by the entrance of the University. One can either take the “mine” elevator (we inaugurated it!) or the beautiful staircase with labradorite walls to reach the basement, where 14,000 sq feet of galleries are.
Entrance through the gift shop.


Mr. Eddé, in between two pillars decorated with minerals as “amuse-bouches” in the entrance Hall of the MIM museum.
The entrance Hall of the MIM museum. In gold on the left, the room with the Treasures are kept.
Another view of the entrance.
From the main entrance, we enter the gallery area, through an impressive vaulted door. From now on, the visitor is placed in a dark environment, which draws attention uniquely to the minerals. Even if it might be considered as an old fashion way to present a mineral exhibit, it proved many times to be successful (the Sorbonne collection, the American Natural History Museum and our own museum have a similar feel to it). Display cases, backgrounds, ceilings and walls are black. Floor tiles are of a light grey. The lighting used is by fiber optic and spot lights from above the specimens. Talking about light: during our 3-hour visit, there were two extremely short power outages (“It is Lebanon”). But the museum is equipped with its own generator when the general electricity goes off.
Oh, did I mentioned that all labels and interactive medias are available in 3 different languages? Yeap: English, French and Arabic!


The first room in the vault area has 9 display cases mounted on the wall, containing each a single majestic mineral, representing the 9 classes of minerals following the Dana system of classification: 1- elements; 2-sulfides and sulfosalts; 3- halides; 4-oxides, hydroxides and arsenites; 5- carbonates and nitrates; 6- borates; 7- sulfates, chromates, molybdates and tungstates; 8- phosphates, arsenates and vanadates; 9- silicates.
In the same room, one can learn, thanks to a giant, multi-user touch screen, more about minerals and their compositions, and also play with them thanks to 360° images of minerals from the MIM collection.