Seeing Rocks In New Light: Thin Section Scanners

WA Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety

The Geological Survey of Western Australia (GSWA) has custody of a hidden treasure trove: more than 400,000 slides and mounts of minerals, fossils, and sedimentary samples.

These specimens are the key to understanding the State’s geological history and resources. As time passes these delicate samples are at risk of deterioration, prompting a vital effort to safeguard their legacy.

Recognising the urgency of preserving this invaluable heritage, an innovative initiative was launched in 2023 and two slide scanners were purchased through the Geoscience Data Transformation Program. The aim is to digitise the entire collection and make it publicly accessible through an online platform. But why is this project so crucial?

Imagine holding a piece of Western Australia’s geology in your hands: a thin slice of rock that tells the story of ancient landscapes and long-extinct creatures. Each specimen, whether a thin section of mineral or a fossil embedded in resin, is a window into the past. These are vital tools for researchers, educators, and industry professionals seeking to unlock the geoscientific secrets of our State.

Approximately 10 per cent of the collection shows signs of damage, highlighting the pressing need for preservation and digitisation.

Each specimen will be digitally scanned to protect it from further physical degradation and open up a world of possibilities for exploration and discovery. Explorers will be able to examine these artifacts from their own devices by using a virtual microscope to zoom in and explore the intricate details.

By reducing the need to physically loan the sample, we minimise the risk of damage during handling and ensure that these specimens remain accessible for future generations. This initiative safeguards our geoscientific heritage and promotes Western Australia as a hub for trustworthy scientific research and exploration.

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