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Revamped UA gem and mineral museum to occupy downtown Tucson

TUCSON, Ariz. — The University of Arizona Gem and Mineral Museum will sparkle a bit brighter next year with a new name and big new space.

From turquoise mined by indigenous people to rocks found on asteroids, the museum’s treasure trove of artifacts will move to downtown Tucson by fall 2020, the Arizona Daily Star reported . The museum will be rebranded as the UA Alfie Norville Gem and Mineral Museum and occupy the historic Pima County Courthouse.

“We’re going to be right in the heart of downtown Tucson, which is undergoing an amazing revitalization, and have a chance to pull the whole university and local community together,” said museum manager Eric Fritz. “This is also exciting because during the Gem and Mineral Show for three weeks a year, we can show off to the whole world how great this actually is.”

At 11,000 square feet (1,022 square meters), the courthouse will provide a venue more than triple the size of the current museum. The museum will also have room for a library, research lab, mineralogy lab and community classroom.

“We’ll have work stations where we can do seminars and presentations and teach people about minerals and gemology,” Fritz said.

The $13.5 million project is a culmination of a partnership between UA and Pima County. The Arizona Board of Regents approved the lease between the two parties in April 2018. The budget went up from $9.7 million due to a rise in costs for labor and materials and the depth of design for a culturally significant building.

Museum officials anticipate getting a sufficient number of donations to offset the cost. Among them is a large contribution Allan Norville, a Tucson businessman and founder of the GJX Gem Show, made in his late wife’s name.

The count will also pay for the first $7.5 million toward the project. The UA is expected to pay that back with interest over a five-year window.


Information from: Arizona Daily Star,