The Rocks of Sterling Hill Mining Museum

It was late morning when we pulled into the gravel parking lot, and got out of the car. We all got out of the car stretching after the hour long car ride. Finally, we made it to Ogdensburg, NJ. We look around and see big mountains all around us. We also see a lot of heavy equipment, and by then we knew for sure we were in the correct place. Some friends and I were at Sterling Hill Mining Museum to help them inventory for insurance purposes, and to take a tour of the mine.

We went inside and were welcomed by one of three tour guides. He showed us to the building where we will be working. For about three hours we learned about every single artifact in the one giant room also known as the Zobel Exhibit Hall. We took pictures, and wrote detailed instructions.

When we were finished with that one room, we were directed back upstairs to the Gift Shop & Snack bar. We all sat down at a classic picnic table, and looked around at all the things on the walls around us. One particular sign caught my attention right as my friend asked, “Where is the bathroom?” I responded with “Oh you mean the restroom, toilet, the head, the dunny, the crapper, the water closet, the loo, badzimmer, the john, necessity? I think it is to the right.”

After we ate our complimentary personalized pizzas, and enjoying some rock candy we joined the first tour of the day. The first stop was the Zobel Exhibit Hall. The tour only had thirty minutes in this room which has over 20,000 exhibits that took us three hours to record.



The tour guide made it fun for everyone by providing them with a scavenger hunt. The most challenging item to find was the 5,000 soda cans. None of the guests on the tour were able to find it. I will not give that away, but some of the other items to look for were a magnet, dinosaur tracks, fool’s gold, and the world famous florescent glowing rocks.

When the tour’s half hour was up, the tour guide asked where all the answers were. He also asked some additional questions, and decided to pick on the college students for the answers since we just spent so much time in that one room. For the most part, we got all the questions wrong because they were trick questions. The tour guide was entertaining and made the Zobel Exhibit Hall fun for everyone of all ages.

The most interesting part of Zobel Exhibit Hall was the Fluorescent Mineral Display. In a small room in one corner is a 7-foot-wide display of the local fluorescent minerals extracted from the Sterling Hill and Franklin zinc mines.  Upon entering this room you will discover why the Franklin area is regarded as the “Fluorescent Mineral Capital of the World.”  Here you will see minerals glowing brilliantly in the dark in rich shades of red, green, orange, yellow, and blue, often in combinations of two to five fluorescent minerals in the same specimen.  This room gives visitors a taste of what is in store for them in the Thomas S. Warren Museum of Fluorescence, where more than 700 specimens of fluorescent minerals from worldwide localities are on display in three large rooms.

The newest part of Zobel Hall is the Periodic Table Display. It is a 10-ft-long representation of the Periodic Table of the Elements.  Each of the 112 cubbyholes in this display contains a sample of the actual element, a representative sample of ore from which that element is obtained, plus an item made from that element.  Here you will see the mysterious greenish color of chlorine gas, the brown of liquid bromine, and the silvery color of gallium metal.  Currently we know of no larger or more complete display of the Periodic Table anywhere in the world.

To get to the next part of the tour we went outside and got a lovely view of the mountains, and then walked through a small dark tunnel. I felt tall with my head almost touching the ceiling, as others felt too tall having to bend over so they do not bump their heads.

The next part of the tour was the Geotech Center where there is a sequence of interactive exhibits on the properties of minerals.  Here visitors see how current flowing through a chunk of native copper will cause a light bulb to glow, how striking a crystal of tourmaline with a hammer will produce electricity, and how exposure to ultraviolet light will cause the daylight color of sodalite to change from gray to deep raspberry red.  Also on hand are two “special” rock specimens that participants study and touch.  One is really heavy, and the other will make you want to wash your hands.

When we were done in that room, we continued to the most exciting part of the tour, the Thomas S. Warren Museum of Fluorescence.  Three rooms filled with rocks, random objects, and florescent lights. It was outstanding seeing all the different objects glow. We had thirty minutes to look around the three rooms, take pictures, and fool around in the fluorescent lights. I only had enough time to look through two of the rooms, but I will be going back again for that third room.



The next part of the tour was a journey through the mine. The tour guide has us gather in front of a mining cart, filled with Styrofoam chunks that were spray painted. I looked at it in shock and said “What did budget cuts effect them too?” Quite the opposite, they could make a lot of money off of those pieces of Styrofoam, they were props from the film Zoolander. For any fans of the film, all of the mining scenes were filmed on location at Sterling Hill Mining Museum.

The rest of the tour of the mine was very interesting. The tour learned about all the different equipment used, and how they did certain jobs. The most interesting piece of equipment was what they used to get to different levels of the mine.

One of the most interesting parts of the mine was a computer that mimicked the sound of dynamite blasting. It also had lights to show the pattern of when each single piece of dynamite would go off.

Seeing all the different equipment that the miners used were astonishing. All of the different drills, and tools were on display. The most interesting was the machine that detected the scale of earthquakes. It is still functional, and picked up changes in the earth from Haiti. Every earthquake effects the entire world in a small way.

Throughout the mine there were certain areas with florescent lights so we can see the rocks glowing. In one of the areas were buckets and buckets of rocks. Everyone on the tour receive a free florescent rock as a gift. The tour was over, and everyone followed the tour guide back to the parking lot. I never knew rocks and minerals could be so amazing. I cannot wait to go back to Sterling Hill Mining Museum next semester.

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