Tucson 2010 and My Display at the TGMS Show
by John Cornish

Tucson. The word evokes so much for so many... Tucson!

Personally, from my first bright-eyed moments as a bedazzled tourist to this very moment years later, now a seasoned show-goer (Whoo-Hoo!), it's always been the same... say the word and my head explodes in a visual kaleidoscope of crystalline colorful perfection and I smile. Ah Tucson, sweet Tucson, I'm a fan one hundred percent! And why not? Each year, Tucson is home to the World's largest Gem, Mineral and Fossil show!

Like most who attend this, the World's largest commercial event, I take time and visit the Main Show, the culminating show of all shows, organized by the Tucson Gem and Mineral Society. As such, I've been thrilled and amazed viewing scores of spectacular displays featuring exquisite treasures culled from many of our planet's finest collections, both public and private. As I've viewed these spectacular wonders, down deep inside, I always thought one day, one day, how great it would be if I could display my minerals too...

This year, 2010, I decided to do exactly that, to display my minerals. It was and still is, even now after everything has been said and done, an exhilarating thing to write/say, I was going to display at the Main Show, and this is how it all came about...

Earlier last year, I wrote of a display of minerals I'd shown at a local western Washington club's show, the Kitsap Gem and Mineral Society's show, held back in November. There I'd displayed a (somewhat biased ya understand) spectacular display of beautiful golden calcites which I'd collected years before from the Gallatin area of Montana, north of Yellowstone National Park. I linked a photo of the display to friends, and one of them, Peter Megaw, is the Display's Chair for the TGMS show. He wrote back requesting I submit an application to display at the upcoming TGMS show in 2010. I was thrilled! But, would my specimens be worthy of the Main Show? Back and forth I debated until finally, things just sort of feel into place and I submitted the paperwork. Soon thereafter I received my confirmation and instructions... moments later, I got really, really nervous! Smile!

Committed and not wanting to duplicate my original effort, I set about making a new display. A percentage of my specimens would repeat from my original presentation, while other goodies would be new. Chief among these new pieces is a killer cabinet-sized specimen which is currently on long-term loan to the Rice Northwest Museum of Rocks and Minerals in Hillsboro, Oregon. This piece when re-acquired, would be my anchor for my updated display. To get it, I'd need some help!

I called my friend, museum Curator Rudy Tschernich of the Rice, and shared my hopes of re-acquiring this specimen for my upcoming TGMS display. Rudy enthusiastically helped and in short order, my specimen was on its way back home. A few days later, I unwrapped treasure! With this key specimen in hand, I next set about mocking up the display. I tried a few combinations, but soon centered on a sweet little group of eight specimens. These I'd compliment with an 8 x 10 inch framed collecting photo and two small identification labels.

Everything looked good. Satisfied, I drew a picture of the final configuration, detailing the orientation of the specimens and if they required additional props or supports. With that accomplished, the wrapping and packing followed. Three boxes later, I was ready! This finalized the actual display itself, leaving only one final component as yet unmentioned, this the actual display case liners. The Tucson Gem and Mineral Society uses display cases whose internal dimensions can be found within the information mailing they provide. With these measurements in hand, I set out to build my case liners.

This is a relatively easy exercise requiring minimal skills and support products. To begin, I contacted a local appliance retailer and found that they had a nice big empty refrigerator box I could use if I came in and picked it up straight-away. I told them I'd be there in a flash! With it soon loaded, I set sights next on my local fabric store. This is where I'd pick up my material. Selecting a color for display case liners is like picking the color of a house... a person better do it right the first time! Think about it, think about the colors that will best compliment a particular display or maybe a generic color that will work with many colors complimentarily. I selected a wonderful deep forest green material and had it cut to size, again using the measurements supplied by the TGMS folks. I ordered a bit extra here and there, giving myself room for adjustments/mistakes. The last product I'd need I had at home, duct tape.

I cut the cardboard to precise size and then set these trimmed-out pieces a' top the fabric and re-cut the fabric following this pattern, allowing for plenty of extra. So, I've a base-board, a back-board and two side-boards to make. With a flat surface before me, I set out the first combo of fabric and board, fabric down and the board on top. I pull the fabric taunt gently, working my way around the entire board evenly until all the ripples in the fabric are gone and a perfectly covered board results. I'll use the duct tape on the ends of the fabric to tape it to the back of the board as I'm stretching. As needed, I'll cut away all excess cloth and will leave as fine a product on the back as I do on the front. Sharp and tight without wrinkles and everything perfectly, perfectly stretched and secured by the tape. I'll repeat this process until all the boards are perfect.

With this task performed, I wanted to protect my handy work and sought next a couple of large plastic garbage bags and covered all four pieces securely as a single unit. With the remaining cardboard, my last task would be fashioning a box to slip the entire works into so they'd travel safely. This whole exercise took several hours all told, but the personalized results I achieved for my display made the effort more than satisfying!

And so, three boxes turn to four. After that, I only had one more thing to do, get everything to Tucson! My trip went well and once there, I set about running my business and when due, I and all the other displayers for the show met in the lobby of the Tucson Convention Center. There we were processed by show staff and given our badges and case positions and just like that, it was set-up day for the big show!

This was a fun and exciting time, standing in line with these wonderful people. Curators and Collectors, enthusiasts all! Helping me was my friend Jolyon Ralph of Mindat.org. Jolyon was awesome, selflessly sacrificing, and was a wonderful supporter. Together, we transported everything in. Next, wait, take a minute, breathe in the moment, I had a display to build! Smile! The liners came out first and were set in place, a perfect fit, and then came the specimens. The boxes were opened and the wrappings peeled back and the splendor revealed. All around me the area was a' buzz with the other folks and sheepishly I must admit, I hardly recall a thing I heard or saw as I was so enamored with the magic world forming within the small wooden box before me! First the big anchor specimens came out and then the photo in the rear between them. Then, my wonder I'd mentioned earlier followed by the cases smaller satellite specimens. Set out the labels and then fuss until everything is perfect. Perfectly balanced and propped, perfectly positioned from side to side, from top to bottom... Perfect.

In the muted roar of the moment, we snapped off a few photos and then I snapped off a few more, all the while gazing in awe... at my rocks in the TGMS show! As I closed and secured the case's glass covering, I must admit, everything was perfect!

Over the four days of the show, thousands of people attended and saw those specimens. As they gazed at the photo in the back of the case, seeing me dirty and wearing a respirator, surrounded by boulders and freshly collected crystals, did they smile? Could they see my smile? If not the one behind the cover of my respirator, could they see the one sparkling in my eyes! The photo, the specimens surrounding it, together in combination, they all looked great. They were treasures I'd found, that anyone could have found. All it took, all it takes, is getting out and looking!

These crystals were collected during a wonderful time in my life and I treasure them more for the memories they evoke then ever I could for their monetary value. For me, the truest joy and fulfillment of collecting is 100% the experience I receive when I hunt for and find my own treasures. This is the very best. Still, sharing them, this is a wonderful thing too!

On Sunday, the show came to its inevitable end. The public was ushered from the show floor and the place made secure and then, the TGMS folks came by and began opening the cases. Again, in a kind of haze, first one and then another specimen was packed away. All too soon with the boxes filled and with my good-byes said, shrouded in melancholy, I loaded for home.

I found the experience of displaying at the Tucson Gem and Mineral Society show very satisfying. Everything flowed and magnificently came together with what seemed to be very little effort. The folks all round were wonderful and if I may, I'd encourage everyone to consider sharing their treasures in a personal display at your next upcoming Rock and Gem Show. I've seen spectacular collections locked away in steel safe's and behind concrete walls and without hesitation, I'd say in a heart-beat, that under the lights and before the amazed adoring eyes of the shows guests, our specimens look so much sweeter!

To all the hard-working folks at the TGMS, thank you. I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to display my minerals within the premier mineral show of our time!

Thanks for coming along everyone, all the very best,


PS Additional footage of my display can be found in the following reports online...
Click Here for Report 1
Click Here for Report 2

... and by seeing, Moore, T. (2010) What's New, Tucson Show 2010. Mineralogical Record, 41, 293.