Waco Gem and Mineral Club, Waco, Tx

18.4 Creating a Fluorescent Display Case and Exhibiting Your Collection


18.4: Creating a Fluorescent Display Case and Exhibiting Your Collection

Building a fluorescent case requires more effort, parts, and expense than a normal display case. Suggestions for crafting a fluorescent display are included on the Fluorescent Mineral Society (FMS) website. If you plan to work with your juniors to build a case, I recommend contacting members of FMS. Here are some basic suggestions and tips:

Fluorescent displays require darkness: a darkened room, or a display case within a drape or a black tent, or an enclosed display case with a small "viewing port".

I‘ve been frustrated trying to find blueprints for a basic UV display case, and I‘ve ended up using my regular display case with a modified top that has extra openings: one for regular lamps and one for my fluorescent lamp. I have separate plugs for each lamp, with on/off switches. (If you‘re into electrical wiring, you can figure a way to put these on timers so that viewers don‘t have to flip switches themselves to switch from white light to UV light.) Then, I created a frame with a curtain to drape over my case, creating a darkened booth.

You should protect the eyes of those viewing a fluorescent display from shortwave UV light. Position the lamp so people won‘t look directly into it. (I hang my lamp at an angle, facing away from the viewer.) Ordinary types of glass will stop shortwave UV light almost completely, so place a glass front between the specimens and viewer.

Be careful in your choice of liners, risers, or stands in your fluorescent display case. Many fabrics and papers and some woods fluoresce. Same thing with many plastics, so avoid using plastic stands or risers that might show beneath your mineral specimens. Best choices for liners are dull black fabric, paper, or cardstock, or wood painted dull black. (Test a dab of the paint first to make sure it doesn‘t fluoresce.)

For labels, use "reverse printing" with your computer to bring white letters against a black background; otherwise, your labels will glow brighter than many of your specimens and will detract attention from the specimens.

If using black fabric liners and/or risers, clean the liners and risers with tape or a lint roller before placing specimens into the case. Otherwise, small flecks of lint and dust will show up like stars when the fluorescent lights are turned on.

Help kids build their own fluorescent mineral collections and encourage them to exhibit, either on their own or in a group case, at a gem show, county fair, at school, or elsewhere. Raytech sells the 'Raytech View Box' that you can also use for looking at individual specimens or a small collection. They also sell a variety of fluorescent lamps. Check their products on their website.

Note: Kids who publicly exhibit a fluorescent collection can use this activity to satisfy requirements toward earning the Showmanship badge simultaneously (Activity 6.4).