The Colorado School of Mines Geology Museum is more than a display of beautiful crystals and rocks. It is a place where someone regardless of his or her level of geological knowledge can learn the basics of the earth sciences. Geology is a science that encompasses many disciplines. In other words, it relies on many other sciences in order to explain the earth. Chemistry, physics, mathematics, paleontology, and astronomy, among others all contribute to the study of the earth.
The displays, as you walk in the door are impressive enough, but for those of you interested in learning more about geology, I recommend starting with the exhibits on the lower floor. The first exhibit that you will see is Blaster’s Uranium Mine. Named for the CSM mascot, Blaster The Burro, the exhibit guides you through some of the history of mining. You will also learn about some of the dangers of mining and you will see a fascinating display on ultraviolet, fluorescent minerals.
Moving through the lower-floor exhibits, there is much scientific information to absorb. I was especially interested in the displays on radiation and radon. Radon is a gas that, according to the National Academy of Sciences, may contribute to somewhere between 15,000 and 22,000 lung cancer deaths each year. Many of the products that we use and the foods we consume emit ionizing radiation. Ionizing radiation can free an electron from an atom or a molecule, and it comes from several sources. There is cosmic radiation and terrestrial radiation. We can’t escape it. Colorado, as a result of our elevation, receives the second-highest amount cosmic radiation in the United States.
Another comprehensive exhibit explains the science behind minerals: how they are defined and how they are identified. Take your time perusing this exhibit as it is an excellent introduction to the science of mineralogy.
There are exhibits on meteorites, fossils, zeolites and borates, and an informative display on the rock cycle, i.e, how rocks become igneous, sedimentary, or metamorphic. Also on the lower floor is one of the museum’s most talked about attractions, the two moon rocks from the Apollo 15 and the Apollo 17 moon landings.
Back on the upper level are numerous mineral displays. There are minerals from many American states as well as minerals from all over the world. These are beautiful and valuable structures. I can only imagine what the dollar value of this stunning collection is.
Also pay particular attention to the murals above the mineral displays. The murals, painted by Irwin D. Hoffman, depict the history of mining and metallurgy from the bronze age through the the Greeks, Egyptians, the California forty-niners.
All in all, this is a museum worthy of at least a two hour visit. Admission is free, so there is no reason not to take in this visually stunning museum. You will also take home something that you did not know before–I know that I did. If you have children or are involved with children’s groups who are interested in learning more about science, this is an important educational resource to consider.