Alfie Norville Gem & Mineral Museum
The new University of Arizona Alfie Norvill Gem and Mineral Museum (UAANGMM) is located in the iconic Pima County Courthouse. Working with Pima County, the University of Arizona, project architects Poster Mirto McDonald, and fabricator Design and Production, RAA planned and designed a new permanent exhibition three times larger than the museum’s previous mineral display.
The project takes visitors through a continuous,12,000-square-foot story about gems and minerals, displaying more than 2,200 specimens. It begins with the minerals formed during the origin of the universe, then focuses on those found in Arizona and Mexico, and culminates with the creative expressions of gem artists and artisans. Displays include exhibits of precious metals, including copper—the metal that put Arizona on the map.
In contrast to traditional mineralogical displays, the design features well-lit spaces with changing exhibitions. The lab-like showcase units have flexible shelf displays and lighting systems, facilitating the museum’s ambitious goal of changing out one-fifth of its collection each year.
UAANGMM is the first mineral museum nationally to include a whole gallery exploring the scientific theory of mineral evolution. The ongoing work of the University of Arizona is also highlighted, showcasing projects from its research institutions. One example is its partnership with NASA during the OSIRIS REx mission, which obtained a sample from near-earth asteroid Bennu and returned it to Earth for analysis at the University. RAA’s aim was to deliver an experience that gave visitors the sense of being in a working laboratory; one that can help to inspire the next generation of Arizonans and beyond to explore natural wonders.
Size 12,000 square feet
Architect Poster Mirto McDonald
Photography © Logan Havens