Past and Present
- D. K. Joyce
The Walker Mineralogical Club today is a mixture of amateur and professional mineralogists with the majority being amateurs. This is important to note in the evolution of the club. The Walker Mineralogical Club started out as a group of professional and academic mineralogists and students with a few amateurs.
In the early years, the Walker Club and its publications were the forum in Canada for gathering and publication of new discoveries in mineralogy. The publication, “Contributions to Canadian Mineralogy” was produced by the club for many years and was, indeed, the forerunner to “The Canadian Mineralogist” which continues to be published to this day. As well in the first couple of decades of the club, it also filled a need to unite mineralogists from across Canada and the United States and could be considered a forerunner of the Mineralogical Association of Canada.
Although the Walker Club, today, is no longer rooted in scientific research, its members from various backgrounds all share a keen interest in the science and beauty of minerals. The Walker Club is recognized as the premier mineralogical club in Canada with the largest aggregate of knowledgeable and keen amateurs.
Today, the Walker Mineralogical Club is dedicated to promoting the study of mineralogy to the highest amateur level and has evolved into a group dedicated to the studying of, teaching about, and collecting of minerals. It is, in fact, the only mineralogical club of its kind, in Canada, amongst many more broadly focused “gem and mineral clubs”. Many members of the broad interest clubs that have a stronger interest in mineralogy have second memberships in the Walker Club.
The Walker Club is still strongly linked to its roots in the world of academia and museums. Guest speakers at monthly meetings, workshops and annual banquets are usually drawn from the ranks of professional mineralogists, curators or geologists. Meetings are held in the Department of Geology at the University of Toronto and many geology and mineralogy faculty and staff at the university and the Royal Ontario Museum are Club members. The Walker Mineralogical Club makes frequent donations from various club functions to the ROM’s new Earth Sciences Gallery construction fund or for other purposes at the ROM. The ROM Mineralogy Department allows the Club to use the ROM mailing address for correspondence and to house our files and archives. As well, the Walker Mineralogical Club disburses funds from its Peacock Memorial Prize to deserving students of mineralogy or allied earth sciences. Every year or two, a substantial prize, often $1 000, is awarded to a student to assist with his, or her, studies.
The main activity of the Walker Club is its monthly meetings. At present, they are held in the Geology Department at the University of Toronto where they moved following a long period in the lecture theater of the McLaughlin Planetarium. They are held on the second Wednesday of every month, September through to April. The meetings primarily present expert speakers who are working in some aspect of mineralogy. Talks cover research outlines, field collecting excursions, notable mineral localities, mineralogical/mining history, crystallography and other related topics. Meetings usually have 30 to 50 members in attendance and are a mainstay of the club.
Another important activity (and to some the most important) is the field collecting trips. Every year, the field trip committee organizes several trips to locations felt to be of interest to the membership and that have potential to produce good mineral specimens. Often, one of these field trips is a “long trip” of a week or two that becomes the highlight of the year for many members who use it as their summer vacation. Trips in recent years have gone to Newfoundland, Manitoba, New York/Pennsylvania, New York/Vermont/Quebec, Kentucky, and the Maritimes/Maine. For the club’s 60th Anniversary in 1998, a major expedition is planned to Colorado. Members that really enjoy field collecting also can partake of excellent collecting trips organized by the Central Canadian Federation of Mineral Societies of which the Walker Club is a member. Of course, many Walker Club members strike out on their own during weekends and holidays in an attempt to collect minerals and expand their knowledge by collecting at old mines waste rock dumps, outcrops in the woods, road cuts or working quarries and mines.
A social highlight of the year is the Annual Banquet. This affair is designed to appeal to members and their spouses or guests. The venue is always pleasant, and an excellent dinner is a certainty. Highlight of the evening is a guest speaker selected to present a topic related to earth sciences (hopefully mineralogy) and geared for the broad audience. Speakers in recent years have included Bill Pinch, Dr. S. Chamberlain, Q. Wight, Dr. D. Gorman, J. Nagel and J. Bartsch, and Dr. R. Gait.
Another important event is the Annual Auction, usually held in November. At this function, most recently held at the Ontario Institute of Architects in Don Mills (Toronto), members are given the opportunity to have some of their surplus specimens auctioned off to other members or guests. Bidding is often spirited and there are lots of humorous moments. The Auction is not just a social event, it is also the main fund raising event of the club. Funds from the event go towards building the club’s general fund, for honorariums and speaker costs, and for contributions to investments that support the Peacock Memorial Fund.
This is the present state of the Walker Mineralogical Club. Members are dedicated to increasing their knowledge of mineralogy through fraternization, educational programs and field collecting. In all club functions, humor and friendship prevail as only they can in a setting where participants share a passionate common interest. New members, no matter what their levels of understanding of mineralogy, are always welcome. Experienced club members will assist in.