The rich geological collection held by the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences contains rocks, minerals and meteorites, as well as drill cores and descriptions of drillings.

Geologists have been collecting ground samples since the middle of the 19th century and have used them to illustrate their descriptions of the "subsurface". This has led to the creation of a lithoteque, a library of rock samples. The collection is still growing and now runs to about half a million samples drawn from Belgian soil. 

Our drill core archive
40km of Cores

The larger items, the "drill cores", are stored at a different site. If you were to lay these cores end to end they would stretch out for about forty kilometres! They can be freely consulted by researchers, along with the borehole measurements and descriptions. The drill core archives are of huge value today when it comes to locating underground storage places for radioactive waste and detecting shale gas. The very fact that fewer cores are now taken – due to scarce funding – makes the historical core archive even more relevant today.

 

The beautiful white-blue mineral 'cavansite'
Minerals and Rocks

It goes without saying that the RBINS is proud of its mineral collection: a good 30,000 specimens, from the massive to the miniscule, from the immensely valuable to the almost worthless... Of these, 5,000 were found in Belgium and 18 were first discovered and defined here. The Russian minerals and rocks – 800 specimens donated by crown prince William of Orange in 1828 – constitute the oldest section of our vast collection.

Collection of marble stones of the famous architect Victor Horta

The petrology collection contains another 25,000 rock samples from around the world. The collection of Belgian marble, featuring unique samples that illustrate a glorious past, is quite outstanding. 300 million-year-old Belgian marble was used in countless historical buildings, especially during the Baroque period, most famously in the Palace of Versailles. The marble gallery at the RBINS – a showpiece from the 1897 World Exhibition in Brussels – offers a wealth of information about the stone quarries of the late 19th century, which no longer operate today.

 

A piece of the Mont-Dieu meteorite is shown in the Galery of the Dinosaurs.
What a Meteorite!

Most valuable of all is probably the collection of 500 meteorites. Recent Belgo-Japanese expeditions have added even more meteorites from the Antarctic. The centrepiece is the 436 kilogram "Mont-Dieu" meteorite, an 18 kilogram fragment of which is on display in the museum's Dinosaur Gallery. Humidity levels in the meteorite preservation rooms must be kept low, because these space rocks contain iron and will rust. Last but not least, the KBIN holds small fragments of the moon rocks retrieved by astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the Apollo 11 flight of July 1969.

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