Warren Somerville Collector and Benefactor

Boxes under the bed
Warren Somerville grew up on his family property in Orange, NSW, where he has lived most of his life. He began picking up interesting rocks when he was about five years old, finding them around the Central West as his parents played social tennis. Boxes under Warren’s bed began to fill up with the most interesting specimens he found. The collection soon outgrew the boxes under the bed, then the wardrobe, then the display cabinet in his parents’ sunroom. Horticulturist, student, teacher, and collector Warren worked on his family orchard whilst he raised a family and also managed to study and acquire degrees in several areas of interest. His studies included horticulture, engineering, thermodynamics, soil and environmental science and geology. Warren also taught at the tertiary level for over 20 years, beginning in positions at TAFE teaching refrigeration and horticulture. It was whilst studying Geology that he was introduced to collector Albert Chapman, the most well-known of Australian mineral collectors, whose collection has its own gallery in the Australian Museum. As a mentor, Albert taught Warren how to build a world class collection and source quality specimens which resulted in a lasting collaboration and friendship.

The Gallery of Minerals
The collection took over the house and parts of the packing shed on the orchard just outside Orange. As the collection grew, Chapman convinced Warren to build a museum on the property. The Gallery of Minerals was officially opened by the Minister for Mineral Resources, drawing many local and international visitors. Warren’s collection developed an international reputation for its quality, and he himself a reputation for his encyclopaedic knowledge of mines, minerals, mineral crystals, fossil sites and fossils from Earth’s major time periods.

An extraordinary Australian
The Australian Government appointed Warren Somerville Expert Examiner for the Protection of Moveable Cultural Heritage (1998) and Valuer for the Cultural Gifts Program, Heritage Department (1990). Warren was made an honorary Associate Professor of Charles Sturt University, and in 2007, was inducted into The General Division of The Order of Australia (AM) for his services to natural history and to the community. In
2009, after living in Bathurst for several years, he was named Bathurst Citizen of the Year. In 2015, in the community project PeopleScape, part of the Bathurst Bicentenary he was named one of the 200 most important and influential personages in Bathurst’s 200-year history. Warren Somerville lived in Bathurst during the development of the Australian Fossil and Mineral Museum, the home of the Somerville Collection, returning to Orange after the Museum had been established for a few years. As a resident of Orange, Warren Somerville was made an Honorary Citizen of Bathurst, New South Wales in July 2018.

In 1951, R.O. (Oz) Charmers, a mineralologist from the Australian Museum was visiting Orange. My mother visited him and asked him to stop at our house on the way back to Sydney to confirm the identity of Warren’s ‘rubbish’ so that she had an excuse to de-clutter the house and shed. Oz did call in and spent three hours identifying the treasures. He was impressed. Poor mother. Oz invited us to visit him at the Australian Museum. He mailed me two books, one was on minerals and the other on fossils. When the family did visit the Australian Museum, Oz introduced the family to Museum staff including the then Director, Dr A.B. Walkom. That was the start of an expanding long term relationship with the Australian Museum. - Warren Somerville

I’d never had it (the T.rex skeleton) on display in Orange ... I had it stored in one of the cool rooms adjacent to the packing shed (on his orchard) for a couple of years. Then it moved to the Australian Museum for display. ... The Albertosaurus and Theselosaurus were in the cool room too. Warren Somerville 2005

The collection kept on growing until it outgrew the cabinet and I had to have somewhere to put it. For quite a while then, the collection not on display was stored in the packing shed of the orchard. Warren Somerville 2005.

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