The Bentley Snow Crystal Collection of the Buffalo Museum of Science
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Wilson A. Bentley
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About the Snow Crystal Collection

The Snow Crystal Collection is divided into two main groupings: The Primary Collection and the Secondary Collection.

The Primary Collection, by far the more extensive and comprehensive of the two, attempts to provide a detailed sample of the analog (glass slide) collection housed at the Buffalo Museum of Science. It has been classified, arranged, and distributed according to the snowflake classification scheme of C. Magono and C. W. Lee, first published in the article “Meteorological Classification of Natural Snow Crystals,” Journal of the Faculty of Science, Hokkaido University, 1966 .

The Magono and Lee classification scheme provides for a numbering and lettering system that categorizes snow crystals according to their general shape and structure. You will see these classification codes on the Primary Collection page.

The web site presents this organizational scheme in its section “Classifying Snowflakes,” along with a visual representation. Further discussion of this classification scheme appears in Field Guide to Snow Crystals, by Edward R. LaChapelle (2001).

The Secondary Collection of images, seen below, is included to provide a sample of the breadth and range of Bentley’s work and of its declining physical condition today. An illustration of the aesthetic differences between a positive and a negative snowflake image are included in this collection as well as examples of degrading slides and composite images, or collages, created by Bentley.

Secondary Collection


Bentley produced both positive and negative snow crystal images. This slide, which holds 3 images of the same snow crystal, illustrate the aesthetic differences between a positive and a negative snow crystal image.



As an alternate method of snow crystal presentation, Bentley often grouped several of his images together on one plate. The result is an aesthetically pleasing composite image which highlights the individual beauty of each snow crystal contained within.


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These images help illustrate some of the problems of preservation which the glass plates face. Peeling, lifting, flaking, and loss of portions of the snowflake image are common in the fragile glass plate collection.



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