Beyond conventional resources, the Colorado School of Mines has a small set of off the beaten path collections and campus resources. While it is hardly small by any means, the Colorado School of Mines Geology Museum is more than just a stop for an Earth and Environmental Systems lab. The museum was started in 1874 by Arthur Lakes. It began as a small mineral collection that could be examined by prospectors and miners heading up to the gold rich hills to the west. In the 139 years since its establishment, the museum has had pieces displayed in the Chicago World’s Fair, it has hosted several moon rocks, and has moved from building to building to its current location in the General Research Lab on the northern edge of campus.
Every fall the museum has an open house in conjunction with the Denver Gem and Mineral show, collectors and dealers from the Denver area and beyond show up, and this past week was no exception. Curator Dr. Bruce Geller took this time to thank all of the current donors, volunteers, and student employees for their work and to introduce the newest exhibits that have been put on display in the past few weeks. In line with the theme of the Gem and Mineral Show, one of the major exhibits put on display is an exceptional variety of tourmalines from around the world. Also new to the museum are collections featuring rhodochrosite, pyrite, specimens from Cripple Creek, along with fluorite specimens found by local collectors. Those visiting the library will notice that the large safes which displayed gold specimens have been relocated to the museum, where they now show off the gold as well as a variety of gemstones.
One of the most important facets of the museum extends beyond showcasing some of the best mineral specimens from Colorado and around the world. The museum functions as a learning experience for local schools. Throughout the year, school groups visit the museum and are given tours over-viewing the history of the Earth and the local geological history. Beyond the museum, the outreach extends to mineral kits that are loaned out to schools and occasionally guest lectures are given elsewhere. “It is a great idea,” said student aide Kelsey Lewis, “students get to see actual bits of geology beyond a textbook and a lecture, it really helps make the earth sciences accessible.” The museum also has a geology trail which gives an excellent overview of Golden geology that can be visited any time. Classes at the school also have labs and assignments in conjunction with the museum. Freshmen Lexie Ludeman and Michelle Franke, who recently visited with the Earth and Environmental Systems class both gleefully expounded on the qualities of the museum. “The museum provides a fantastic variety of different minerals from all over the world, it is a cool museum,” stated Franke, “plus, it’s free.” “Oh my gosh,” responded Ludeman, “I am so glad it is free, I would be spending so much money here.” The museum also sees many visitors from around the world.
Since the museum serves as one of Colorado’s main storage facilities for minerals from a variety of collections, it is no surprise that there are more than a handful of extremely unique pieces and artifacts. Collections Managers Ed Raines and Tom Hughes put in new minerals with a fervent drive to showcase the best specimens. Almost weekly, new specimens are put on display so it is always worth returning. Of note are the Apollo moon rocks, one of which is on loan from NASA, and the other, which is from the state. Student Aide Charlotte Adams explained her favorite current piece, “The rhodochrosite chess set is really cool, it shows that variety of pieces that can be on display.” Also on display is the Miss Colorado tiara, which is awarded to Miss Colorado every year.
Into the future, there are many changes that are beginning to take place. Curator Bruce Geller is in anticipation of a new gift shop for the museum which will have a wide variety of specimens for sale. Also on the horizon is a potential coffee table book which will highlight some of the best specimens.