JMU News

Rare minerals gift makes JMU museum a must see

by Eric Gorton


James Madison University has received a $16.8 million gift to its mineral museum, the largest gift of any kind to the university. 

The collection—bequeathed to the university by Peter Via, a reclusive collector who established a relationship with a JMU geology professor—is finally being made available to the general public. The collection is well-known within the mineralogy community, but until now very few people have been granted the opportunity to view it. 

Lance Kearns, the geology professor who established the relationship with Via, said, "This collection definitely has a lot of wow factor in it. You walk into the room, and you're immediately taken by the bright colors, the shapes, the luster." 

Kearns also says the collection, which has 378 individual specimens on display from 24 states and 39 countries, will add to museum’s attractiveness to a wide audience, from the casual museum visitor to the trained mineralogist. Overall, the museum holds more than 1,770 cataloged specimens from five different collections, including Via’s. 

"Mineral enthusiasts that come in, they're going to look at the big gem crystals, the aquamarines, the emeralds, the tanzanites, the beautiful things. We have a specimen of hydroxylherderite, one of the largest crystals in the world. We also have a ferro-axinite crystal, one of the biggest in the world. So it depends on your point of view as to what is going to be special," Kearns said. 

Some photos from the museum are available here:


Media contact: Eric Gorton,,  540-908-1760. 


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Published: Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Last Updated: Tuesday, November 10, 2020

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