The old Pima County Courthouse will house 20,000 square feet of museum space, including displays and labs.

The University of Arizona is poised to bolster Tucson’s reputation as the gem-and-mineral capital of the world with its new gem- and-mineral museum with state-of-the-art research facilities and a related gem science track within the geosciences bachelor’s degree program.

For decades, the university has lovingly maintained a mineral museum in the lower floor of the Flandrau Science Center on campus. It is best known by the mineral-collecting community and schoolchildren who tour the facility.

But the chance to expand the museum and move into the epicenter of the annual Gem, Mineral and Fossil Showcase in an iconic Tucson landmark downtown will rocket the scope and presence of the geosciences department.

The UA Alfie Norville Gem and Mineral Museum is slated to open in 2020 in the old Pima County Courthouse.

The moniker of “gem” is being added to the museum’s name, thanks to a loaned gemstone collection from the Phoenix-based Somewhere In The Rainbow organization.

The museum’s exhibit space will expand from 4,000 to 20,000 square feet, and the facility’s lower floor will house 10,000 square feet of research labs, meeting space and storage. Community gem groups will find space to gather in the facility.

“This will appeal to the entire gem-and-mineral collecting community,” says Bob Logan, the College of Science’s assistant dean for external and corporate relations.

A $2 million endowed chair from The RealReal is the foundation for a course of study to prepare students for careers in the gem and mineral industry.

Logan says partnerships with the Gemological Institute of America and the American Gem Trade Association will support the growing emphasis on gemstones.

“This will be the hub of our gem and mineral community,” Logan says.