Putting minerals in the spotlight

BEIRUT: Every Lebanese citizen knows about the National Museum. Some may have also have discovered the Museum of Lebanese Prehistory, while others may be longing for the urban and cultural museum Beit Beirut to open.

But there is one museum that most are unlikely to have heard of. The Mim Museum, which opened very recently, is dedicated to minerals and is far more stimulating than it sounds. More than 1,400 items are displayed at the venue, which is located inside the USJ campus of Innovation and Sports, facing General Security.

This extensive collection is the fruit of Salim Edde’s passion. Already one of the founders of risk management software firm Murex, Edde created Mim in order to grant the public easy access to stones rarely seen by minerals aficionados and collectors, let alone by unaware locals.

“I started collecting these minerals [in] 1997,” Edde told The Daily Star, “and in 2004 I decided to [create] a museum [for] them. But many problems delayed the project [such as] Hariri’s assassination in 2005 or the 2006 Israeli invasion.”

Originating from more than 60 countries and now stored in the 1,300-square-meter exhibition space, the minerals will open up a whole new world to visitors eager to learn something new. “[These minerals] are filled with scientific, historic and geographical information,” Edde explained.

He worked hard to render the museum as attractive as possible by giving it a modern design.

“We had to do something modern,” Edde said. “This is why we separated the museum into two parts. The first can be rented for entertainment, such as parties, conferences, seminars and even for jewelers wanting to exhibit their collections.

“The second part is the museum, where we tried to revisit the design. We wanted to have an ultramodern museum in order to attract the youngsters.”

Visitors meandering through the spacious museum will fall in love with Edde’s collection, an array of colorful wonders of nature. Edde emphasized that these minerals were found exactly as they are displayed, allowing visitors to discover the rare minerals in their natural state.

The Room of Treasure displays the stones considered to be precious minerals. Silver, gold, diamonds, emeralds, topazes, sapphires and tanzanites – to name a few – fill the room, creating a comprehensive panorama of stones sourced from Europe, Africa, America and Asia.

This museum currently has between 40 and 100 visitors per day, Edde said, “not bad for a museum in Lebanon, and we are now in a low season.”

“It is new,” he added, “and people can’t believe these minerals were found with these shapes.”

Many visitors thought that he was displaying his own sculptures.

As visitors progress though the museum, they are likely to come across stones they have never seen before. While the existence of the museum comes down to Edde’s passion, his ambitions for the project exceed a simple exhibition space.

“I would like it to be a place where people gather,” he said, “not just where they visit a museum. It has to be a whole.”

People will be able to buy handmade jewelry made out of the minerals on display in the small boutique located next to the entrance, and a cafe is under construction.

The museum’s name, Mim, was inspired by the 24th letter in the Arabic alphabet, also found in the Latin alphabet. This name conveys Edde’s purpose: to make culture accessible to everyone and bridge cultural divides through people’s passion for stones and minerals.

Each room has its own design and boasts blast-proof doors protected by security codes. When entering the museum visitors will notice a glass structure outside, which is a replica of one of the stones on display within.

It is reminiscent of Pritzker Prize-winning architect Ieoh Ming Pei’s glass-and-metal pyramids on display outside the Louvre, but on a smaller scale.

In order to attract the younger generations, Edde invested in the latest electronic devices so as to render the museum experience as interactive and engaging as possible.

Tablets and giant screens placed throughout the seven different rooms detail the components of each mineral and show where these stones can be found in the world, giving visitors the opportunity to self-educate as they peruse the stones on show.

This shows not only the thought that has gone into the design of the venue, but also its emphasis on teaching visitors about minerals.

“How they are [formed in] nature? What is the scientific data [that] comes out of them? What are the historical facts linked to them?” These are the questions Edde wants to answer through Mim.

For more information on the Mim Museum, please call 01-421-672.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on November 06, 2013, on page 16.




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