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Earth and Man National Museum

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Bulevard Cherni vrah 4, 1421 Sofia, Bulgaria
  • Sofia
  • Posted 2 years ago

The National Museum “Earth and Man” situated in the heart of Sofia. The museum first opened its doors in 1987. Visitors may see a collection of minerals gathered from 109 nations throughout the globe in its 5,500 square meter space. The museum has acquired 1,523 different types of minerals from a total of over 4200 known across the globe. Few European museums can claim such a diverse collection as this one.

The museum has about 27,000 pieces in seven permanent displays. Visitors may appreciate the gigantic crystal display on the first level, which includes crystals that are seldom seen in nature and are as tall as they are. Quartz, Apatite, fluorite, and other minerals are on display. The next exhibit, “Earth’s Minerals,” has a vast range of minerals, many of which are also very uncommon.

The Peter Tranteev (1924-1979) collection is located at the far end of the first level. Tranteev founded the Bulgarian Speleological Society. The cave pearls are among the most intriguing of these things discovered throughout 45 years of study.

The majority of Bulgaria’s minerals are on display on the museum’s second level. Here are 291 minerals discovered in Bulgaria, shown in exhibitions categorized by area. Two-faceted Dravite crystals, titanium, Apatite, Brookite, Anatite, and a range of cut ornamental stones are included in the Vitosha show. There are many varieties of Barite derived from Kremikovtsi. Orfeite, native bronze, Malachite, and Kakosanit are all minerals found in Madzharova. There are additional minerals from Bulgarian locations and an exhibit of various mineral resources, including several discovered in Bulgaria.

The gemstone display is very interesting. Almost every kind, both cut and uncut, is represented here, including uncommon precious stones.

Temporary exhibitions are housed in a section of the museum. At the entrance, there are shops offering a broad range of minerals as well as basic museum information.

One of the museum’s key tasks is the preservation of specimens kept and housed in the different museum divisions. Each repository has 165 storage slots that house the majority of the museum’s primary and exchange samples.

Donations, private collections, and acquired and swapped samples are among the categories. Every year, between 500 and 1000 specimens arrive to the museum. As of January 2016, the museum has around 31 000 pieces divided into the following categories:


Iliya Delev, a Bulgarian long-term emigrant in Brazil, gave a collection of 53 large crystals to the 13 Centuries of Bulgaria National Endowment Fund in 1985. His express requirement is that he locate a suitable structure to house the collection. This gift was the impetus for the establishment of the “Earth and Man” Museum in early 1986, for which the state offered the old Sofia Arsenal.

In 1988, Iliya Delev added additional gigantic crystals to the original collection in order to extend the exposition of Giant Crystals in scientific and artistic criteria.

There are over 200 enormous crystals from Brazil, which are kept in different museums throughout the globe. They may be found in two main museum collections (Paris and Sofia) as well as three smaller ones (Strasbourg, Seattle and Borculo, Netherlands).

The gigantic crystals are the major attraction in the “Earth and Man” National Museum, taking center stage in its exhibit.

Brazil’s gigantic crystals are a natural phenomena and an incredibly unusual event. They are from the state of Minas Gerais, in the Rio Doce River Valley, in the center of Brazil (north of Rio de Janeiro).

The crystals were formed around 200 million years ago as a consequence of the entrance of granite magma in earlier rocks deep in the earth’s crust. They were discovered on the surface much later, due to an erosion incision a few kilometers deep.

The Rio Doce River Valley’s gigantic quartz crystal resources are the world’s biggest and richest region of precious stones, quartz for electronics (piezo-quartz), rare metals, and giant crystals. There are common minerals (quartz, orthoclase, plagioclase, and muscovite) as well as more rarer minerals (beryl, cassiterite, spodumen, tantalite, lepidolite, tourmaline, topaz, garnet, and so on). The reserves of large crystals were irreversibly lost during the rigorous activity for the military industry from 1938 to 1977.

A sample portion of Brazil’s huge quartz crystals (about 200 in number) were spared from destruction thanks to the Bulgarian Iliya Delev.

Brazil’s gigantic crystals are scientific and cultural treasures, as well as part of the world’s natural heritage.

Along with the huge crystals from Brazil, the “Earth and Man” National Museum exhibit includes examples from Bulgaria, India, Madagascar, and Russia.


The fascination in minerals and rocks dates back to prehistoric times and is directly tied to the development of human material civilization. Minerals in nature often have an uneven shape and take the form of grains with no crystal faces. Individuals with well-formed crystals are quite unusual.

The chemical composition and crystal structure of minerals allow for the identification of over 4500 different species. Each of them has a name that is commonly related with its geographical origin, a famous person, or unique physical and chemical qualities.


Mineral resources are all mineral substances that may be employed in the economy in known or estimated amounts.

Minerals are considered mineral resources when they can be used in a technically feasible and commercially successful manner. Mineral resources are mined to generate mineral raw materials, which are then processed to make materials. Thus acquired materials (iron, aluminum, titanium, gold, niobium, uranium, kaolin, quartz, and so on) are the source of contemporary civilization’s energy and material potential. In the past, great nations thrived on the availability of natural resources and then vanished when those resources were depleted.

The usual categorization of the early stages of human history reveals the huge influence of minerals and mineral raw materials.

The name of each age relates to the primary material utilized in the manufacture of weapons and tools. Furthermore, each period is distinguished by increasingly advanced materials, namely: (1) Stone age (Paleolithic and Neolithic), (2) Copper age, (3) Bronze age, and (4) Iron age. The extraordinary qualities of titanium and its alloys, as well as the abundance of titanium minerals in nature, may be enough to justify naming the twenty-first century the Titanium Age.

The department of “Mineral Resources of Earth” seeks to generate collections of scientific, cognitive, and educational value. They represent the current state of knowledge for the efficient and sustainable use of mineral raw resources and provide knowledge continuity.

The exhibition features examples from past, current, and future deposits from throughout the globe. It emphasizes the significance of mineral resources, which account for around 70% of all natural resources, and demonstrates how alternate applications may enhance the value of raw materials by a hundredfold.

Mineral resources are finite and, unlike other natural resources, non-renewable. This is a highlight of the show. The exponential surge in their production has resulted in a global scarcity of mercury, silver, tantalum, and platinum.


The Mineral Resources of Bulgaria permanent exhibition showcases our country’s mineral wealth: ferrous, base, and precious metal ores; industrial minerals and beautiful rocks; and non-conventional mineral resources. Both the normal ore mineralization and the host rocks are included in the exhibitions.

The exhibition displays around 500 of the 3100 mineral samples preserved in this fund.


Gemstones are mostly minerals of wonderful color, transparency, brilliance, dispersion, and so on. They are very durable (hard) and chemically stable, and they may be faceted and polished nicely. A genuine gemstone must also be uncommon.

Decorative gemstones are semi-transparent or opaque minerals and rocks with attractive inclusions or patterns that may be utilized in jewelry, fine and applied arts.

Gemology is the science that deals with both natural and man-made jewels (from Latin “gemma” and “logos”- knowledge).

Natural gemstones are generally in the shape of crystals. Cutting and polishing are used to form them, eradicate certain inherent flaws, and emphasize their features. The transparent gemstones are faceted, which is the process of cutting regular planes on stone in a preset pattern connected to the crystalline structure of the stone. Faceting is classified into two types: dazzling and step cut. The non-transparent stones are polished and shaped to create cabochons rather than faceted. Carats are used to measure the weight of gemstones. A carat is equivalent to 0.2 grams.

The list of gemstones is always growing. Charoite and tanzanite are two of the most recent gemstones.

The most appealing display at the museum is the Gems and Gemstones collection. Natural crystals and raw gem materials, as well as faceted and polished gemstones, are shown. It contains 2513 samples from Bulgaria as well as 40 other nations. Only 1189 of them are on display during the exhibition.


Because of its scientific and historical significance One of the most notable collections housed in the “Earth and Man” National Museum is Peter Tranteev’s collection of cave speleothems. Peter Tranteev is a household name in Bulgarian speleology. He spent more than 45 years doing scientific study, surveying caverns, and collecting and analyzing cave mineral samples. His main scientific study subject was cave pearls, which he followed with extraordinary passion, endurance, accuracy, and the talent of a natural born researcher.

His sons, Bojan and Martin Tranteev, presented Peter Tranteev’s collection to the “Earth and Man” National Museum in 1987. It was shown at the Morphology of Cave Speleothems exhibition, and a catalogue was published with funding from the 13 Centuries of Bulgaria National Endowment Fund.

The museum conducts conferences and associated exhibitions on a regular basis.

History of Earth and Man National Museum

The Earth and Man National Museum is housed in a one-of-a-kind architectural structure in the heart of Sofia, which was built as part of the Sofia Arsenal complex towards the end of the nineteenth century. It is one of the country’s first monolithic reinforced concrete structures with anti-earthquake walls.

The complex’s first mention dates back to 1882, when Sofia’s ordnance depot was renamed Sofia’s Armaments Factory. The structure was renamed Sofia Artillery Arsenal by Knyaz Ferdinand in 1899.

Three of the original complex’s structures have been maintained to this day. The Earth and Man National Museum, the Contemporary Art Museum, and the Garrison Gun Shooting Range Memorial are now housed there.

For more than 30 years, the Arsenal manufactured ammunition with the monogram “-оиски рсенaл” (SA – Sofia Arsenal) and a lion emblem. The arsenal also repaired a range of weaponry.

The plant was relocated to Kazanluk in 1927. Only minor industrial operations are still housed in the former Arsenal building. The structure that now houses the Earth and Man National Museum was formerly the Arsenal’s Big Cartwright’s Workshop.

The Arsenal Complex was given to the School for Officers of the Reserve, which was then situated in Knyazhevo, in the 1930s. The headquarters were situated in the current Contemporary Art Museum structure. The “Small Arsenal” functioned as the school’s dining room, the Garrison Gun Shooting Range Memorial served as the school’s shooting range, and the current Earth and Man National History Museum held the school’s gym.

The State Printing Establishment was transferred here shortly after September 9, 1944. Typesetting, letterpress black printing, letterpress colorful printing, chalcography, brochure and book binding were all established. The building served as a printing firm until 1975, when it was transferred to a newly built structure.

The Earth and Man National Museum (EMNM) was created on January 1, 1986 by Council of Ministers Decree No 50/30.12.1985 with the goal of locating, collecting, preserving, and presenting minerals and their derivatives. The old State Printing Establishment ‘Georgi Dimitrov’ building on the former boulevard ‘G.Traikov’ (‘Cherni Vrah’ now) was given to the EMNM for free.

The structure has been rehabilitated, designated a cultural monument, and fitted to the demands of the Earth and Man National Museum. Hristo Ganchev, an architect, designed the building rehabilitation project. The interior was designed by Ivan Radev, and the paintings in the hall were created by Teofan Sokerov.

The museum formally opened to the public on June 19, 1987, after an 18-month restoration.

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