Madrid, the capital of Spain, is a real paradise for mineralogical museum enthusiasts. There are not many capitals in Europe where you can visit three outstanding mineralogical museums, but in Madrid you can!
Each one has high quality minerals and the three deserve a visit for sure. But they are quite different, so I am going to start writing about each one.
Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales
This is my least favourite out of the three, but still deserves time for a visit. The museum exhibits some quality minerals from old Spanish localities, but also many specimens of average or low quality, giving a not great overall impresion for a specialist in fine mineral specimens. On the other side, it can be very educative if you travel with children.
The mineral exhibits are not very well cared: you can see some cabinets with dust, poor labelling, etc.
Nonetheless, you can appreciate some excepcional minerals like a really large pyromorphite from El Horcajo, probably the largest I have ever seen. Or even a larger sulphur from Conil, both from true classic Spanish mineral localities!
You will find information about minerals and their uses, clearly aimed for a student level visitant. This is probably the most appealing mineral museum for children. But don’t get me wrong, fine mineral lovers will find some great mineral specimens as well.
In my opinion, if you are short of time, this museum is the one you can skip. You can not miss the others because they are just great classic mineralogical museums. Continue reading!
Museo Geominero del Instituto Geológico y Minero de España
It is also known by “Museo del IGME”. “IGME” stands for Instituto Geologico y Minero de España, which could be translated as Geological and Mining Institute of Spain.
The building itself justifies a visit. It was built between 1921 and 1940. The greatness of every hall takes you back to past times, when the Spanish mining industry was of great importance for the industrial development in Europe.
The museum shows one of the best sistematic mineral collections of the country with some provinces extremely well represented, for example, Madrid. The collection exhibited at the time of my visit did not stand out due to a large number of fine and aesthetic mineral specimens, although there were some, but because of the wide amount of minerals and localities represented.
Let’s say that the collection had very valuable specimens from rare Spanish localities but few of them ranked high in aesthetics if you compared them with worldwide localities. See below some nice specimens.
Other Spanish localities famous worldwide for their quality could be much better represented.
A visit to this museum is highly recommended. If you have enough time you will see hundreds of interesting specimens from Spain and overseas. If we add the quiet and classic atmosphere that surrounds the cabinets you will enjoy your visit for sure! Also, if you are lucky enough, you will see interesting temporary exhibitions which, from time to time, the curators of the museum assemble.
Another good point of this museum is its proximity to the next one…keep reading!
Museo Histórico-Minero Don Felipe de Borbón y Grecia
This is a very classic, cosy and tidy museum. Indeed, it is probably my favourite one out of the three of them. It is located in the XIX century building of the School of Mining Engineers of Madrid. Awesome building again!
One thing to keep in mind before a visit to this museum is that it is not open everyday. I think it opens always by appointment and also the first Sunday of each month (not sure about August), but it is best to give them a call well in advance.
The mineral and antique book collections inside the building are of great quality and importance for the country. Regarding the mineral collection, it tends to be better if we focus on classic, long ago closed Spanish localities, like Almaden, El Horcajo, Hiendelaencina, etc.
The mineral collection is also of great importance when we realize the quantity and quality of mineral specimens from less well known Spanish localities. See a few examples below.
The mineral specimens are well exhibited. They are inside beautiful old wood cabinets and lighting is good enough to enjoy the specimens. I remember two type of cabinets, some adjacent to the walls of the building and some free standing ones, all exquisitely made. Hopefully, this will not change in the future as it is great to visit a museum that keeps the essence from past times. Of course, lighting could be better if new cabinets are set up but that would destroy the magic feeling it has now. Definitely you get the impression that the treasures of this museum are well cared!
As I said for the IGME museum, this one doesn’t offer either the visitor a huge number of worldclass specimens. Don’t forget that this museum was created, long time ago, with the main purpose of teaching. Is not an extremely showy museum to impress random people or to show just the most aesthetic and impressive specimens. It is more orientated to knowledgeable people who can appreciate rare mineral specimens, obscure localities from Spain and so on.
To finish this quick visit to this excellent museum lets show one of my favourite specimens. This is an exceedingly rare large cabinet sphalerite specimen from the Picos de Europa Mountains, Spain. The label says “Aliva”, which is an area in the central part of Picos de Europa famous for having produced the world best gem sphalerites. This specimen shows very defined crystal faces and poor translucency, which makes me think that it is probably from a rare old mine of Picos de Europa and not from the famous Las Manforas Mine in the Aliva area.
To finish of the post, another great specimen. I hope you like it and stay tuned because more will come about mineralogical museums!
Juan Fernandez Buelga