THE INSPIRATION Bob Downs If you know me, you know I’m wildly enthusiastic about minerals and technology. Other than that, it takes something Earthshaking to get my attention. What you may not know is that for many years I’ve wanted to expand the scope and presence of the University of Arizona Geosciences Department, and more specifically, the UA Gem and Mineral Museum.
At long last, we’ve found the right place at the right time. For me, this is as thrilling as analyzing mineral data from the Mars Rover Mission. As you know, Tucson is the mineral and colored stone capital of the world. And trust me, we are now going to look the part. Our new museum will be a huge draw for the scientific community, collectors, and tourists. With this move, we’ll bring the world to the doorstep of our Earth sciences department.
THE MANAGER Eric Fritz, FGA, DGA Eric is the new museum manager, coordinating operations with the University, Pima County, the architects Poster, Frost and Mirito and Museum designers Ralph Appelbaum & Associates, to build a world class facility for the collections as well as a research arm for mineralogy and gemology research. He has extensive experience in gem science, which includes earning an array of gemology degrees, industry licenses and professional affiliations from worldwide institutions such as Gemmological Association of Great Britain (Gem-A), American Gem Trade Association (AGTA), American Gem Society (AGS) just to name a few. Prior to this role, he was Manager-North America for Gem-A, holding both colored stone and diamond designations. Eric has a degree in Zoology from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. The Zoology degree led to a passion for pearls and other organic gem materials, which are Eric’s specialty. As a youth, he collected shells on the seashore and noticed at an early age the ability for pearl formation as a free pearl or as a protrusion of the shell, what we now refer to as Mabe or blister pearls. An obsessive shell collection now resides beside his mineral, gemstone, fossil and meteorite collection(s).
THE ARCHITECT Corky Poster Corky Poster is the founder of Poster Frost Mirto, a Tucson-based architectural firm with deep roots in historical design. Corky graduated from the Harvard School of Design and founded the firm in 1983. He is known for his grass roots urban design, community based architecture and for pioneering an integrated approach to historic preservation planning.
THE DESIGNERS Ralph Applebaum Ralph Applebaum Associates (RAA) is a multidisciplinary firm specializing in the planning and design of museums, exhibits, educational environments and visitor attractions. A family-owned company founded in 1978, its portfolio includes many of the world’s most recognizable public learning institutions across 700 completed commissions in more than 50 countries. The firm counts the Holocaust Museum and the Museum of Natural History’s Hall of Gems among their many global achievements.
“Repurposing one of the most beautiful, historic, and iconic buildings in the state? I can’t think of anything I’d rather work on. And creating a new home for the University of Arizona Gem & Mineral Museum feeds right into my sense of Tucson’s identity as a community. The plans are in progress. This project is right in my wheelhouse.” - Corky Poster, Founder of Poster Frost Mirto