Curator, 1956–1991, Petrology Collection
“The impact that Dr. Burwash’s curatorial activities have had on the collection, the museum, and of course, the students is hard to overstate…. Generations of students have viewed and learned from these specimens, which represent a truly lasting legacy that continues with each new class.”
- Andrew Locock, Museums and Collections Administrator, Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences
Dr. Ronald Burwash was effectively the Curator of Petrology from the start of his 35-year career in what was then the Department of Geology, and he spent his entire professional life building the collection. The keys to the collection were literally in his desk drawer from his first day on the job. A large part of Dr. Burwash’s research involved field work in remote parts of Canada, particularly in the Cordillera and Shield regions, and he seized this opportunity to build the Petrology Collection.
Dr. Burwash became legendary among faculty and students for collecting exceptionally large rock specimens from around the world. The best of these “monoliths” made their way into the Mineralogy/Petrology Museum, and the rest joined the teaching collection where they have impressed generations of students.
In his retirement and up until his passing in the summer of 2011, Dr. Burwash remained closely associated with the Mineralogy/Petrology Museum, designing and building many of the rock exhibits. The impact that his curatorial activities had on the collection, the museum and the students is hard to overstate. The range, size, quality, and quantity of the rocks he added to both the permanent and teaching collections are staggering.
Dr. Burwash worked to ensure the museum and collection would continue to further the educational and public outreach goals of the university. Generations of students have viewed and learned from these specimens, a truly lasting legacy which continues with each new class.
Adapted from nomination by Andrew Locock, Museums and Collections Administrator, Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, and support letters by Ron Mussieux, Curator of Geology (retired), Royal Alberta Museum, and Tom Chacko, Curator of University of Alberta Museums Mineralogy and Petrology Collection.