Recognising and preserving mineral diversity: An updated catalogue of type mineral specimens in Victoria’s State collections

Lindenmayer, Oskar1

1Museums Victoria, Melbourne, Australia

Type mineral specimens are designated by the International Mineralogical Association (IMA) as the physical standards by which newly discovered mineral species are defined. They represent the benchmarks against which the word’s mineral diversity can be recognised and studied. Each type mineral specimen is a globally significant element of movable natural heritage and forms an irreplaceable resource for researchers in the fields of mineralogy, crystallography and materials science. Despite their importance, the management of these specimens has historically lacked transparency.

Museums Victoria holds approximately half of the type mineral specimens in Australian institutions. The most recent edition of the global catalogue of type mineral specimens, prepared under the direction of the IMA Commission on Museums, lists 98 specimens as lodged with Museums Victoria, of which 45 are from Australian localities and 53 are from overseas localities. This catalogue also lists the whereabouts of 12 specimens from Australian localities as unknown. In contrast to the global catalogue, Museums Victoria’s internal catalogue includes 125 type mineral specimens, of which 59 are from Australian localities and 66 are from overseas localities. There are also a number of discrepancies between the two catalogues for specimens that appear on both, including type status (ie. whether the specimen is a holotype, cotype or neotype) and registration number.

To resolve these issues, a review of the information available in publications, Museums Victoria records and correspondence, and minutes from meetings of IMA Commissions has been undertaken for each specimen. Where necessary and practical, authors of new mineral descriptions have been contacted for further information. A methodology has been developed to identify legitimate type specimens and appropriately categorise them by their type status. In a departure from previous attempts to document type mineral specimens in Victoria’s State collections, areas of uncertainty or missing information for specimens are flagged and explicitly discussed.

The sources of the majority of the discrepancies between the global and internal catalogues were found to be either publically undocumented transfers from other institutions or incomplete information having been given in the original publications of new mineral descriptions. Amongst the discrepancies resolved was the identification of Museums Victoria as the lodging institution for five of the type specimens listed as having unknown whereabouts in the global type catalogue. In the absence of a formal mechanism for reviewing details or reporting transfers of type mineral specimens, periodical review and publication of catalogues by the institutions that hold them is necessary for the ongoing management of these most significant parts of mineral collections. It is hoped that by undertaking this review in a transparent manner, and making the results and methodology publically available, other institutions will be encouraged to do the same.


As Collection Manager, Geosciences, at Museums Victoria, Oskar is responsible for managing Victoria’s State collections of minerals, gemstones, rocks, meteorites, and tektites.

This involves preserving and organising the collection, maintaining and improving the digital collection database and facilitating access of the collections for the purposes of research, education, and exhibition.

About the GSA

The Geological Society of Australia was established as a non-profit organisation in 1952 to promote, advance and support Earth sciences in Australia.

As a broadly based professional society that aims to represent all Earth Science disciplines, the GSA attracts a wide diversity of members working in a similarly broad range of industries.