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Mineral Museum, Montana

Located on the Butte Montana Technological University campus, the Mineral Museum welcomes visitors to explore some of the finest samples of rocks and minerals found in the state, around the world, and even from outer space.

Overlooking the historic mining city of Butte, the museum analyzes the rock collecting practices of the local mining industry and its geological significance worldwide.

What is the Mineral Museum?

mineral museum

The Mineral Museum originated as a 177 mineral collection purchased by teachers to help educate the first students enrolled at the Montana School of Mines in 1901. Just as the school has evolved to feature several buildings and technological fields within the complexes of Montana Tech, so too has the school’s mineral collection.

Now featuring approximately 12,000 specimens, the school’s mineral museum is one of the state’s most extensive collections of rocks and gemstones.

From 1940 to 1979, the collection shared its auditorium with the school’s many exercise and athletic groups for nearly forty years.

It wasn’t until the construction of the school auditorium in 1979 that the original building holding the mineral collection became the official Mineral Museum of Montana.

What is there to see and do at the Mineral Museum?

The Mineral Museum has come a long way from its original 177 specimen collection and now features over 12,000 varieties of minerals, gems, and rocks.

The museum’s diverse collections feature some of the finest samples found in Montana, around the world, and even outer space.

Rocks and Gemstones from Montana

The Mineral Museum, Butte features plenty of minerals and gemstones that can be found across Montana.

One of the museum’s most prized specimens discovered directly in the state include Rheanna’s Star, a beautiful smoky quartz cluster discovered just east of Butte and named after the daughter of the man that dug it up.

blue sapphires
Image: PumpkinSky

When visiting the museum, check out the polished agate and blue sapphires from Yogo Gulch. The sapphires taken from the Yogo Gulch are some of the most valuable in the world. Along with the agate in the collection, these sapphires serve as the co-State Gemstones of Montana.

Other local samples that have earned Butte the title of “Richest Hill on Earth” include a 27.5 troy ounce nugget and a collection of copper, zinc, and manganese ore.

International Exhibits

Along with local mineral samples, the Mineral Museum also features a comprehensive collection of specimens from around the world.

Among the museum’s more valuable international finds are the Azurite and Malachite from Bisbee, Arizona, a remarkable native copper sample from Michigan, and breathtaking amethyst geodes from Brazil.

A favorite exhibit among guests is the museum’s Fluorescent Room. In this exhibit, visitors will explore Earth-toned minerals that come alive and radiate vibrant shades of blue, orange, and pink when exposed to ultraviolet lights.

Meteorite Exhibits

Some minerals can only be described as being out of this world. And that is because, for some of these minerals, they actually are.

The Mineral Museum features ten meteorite exhibits of astronomical rocks that would have traversed thousands of lightyears before crash landing on Earth’s surface. Within their rugged interiors, these rocks retell a history of worlds utterly foreign to our own.

Among these other-worldly specimens is a large Ni-Fe meteorite only recently uncovered in the nearby Beaverhead County.

Museum Tours

For a guided experience, the Mineral Museum offers free tours for groups of ten or more. Typically lasting between 45 minutes and an hour, tour groups will explore the vast varieties of specimens contained in the collection and each piece’s origins.

Tour groups must be arranged at least a week in advance and organized through the Museum office. Potential groups can call (406) 496-4414 or email JFoley@mtech.edu to reserve tour times.

Museum Gift Shop

Visitors to the Mineral Museum should stop by the museum’s gift shop for various rocks, minerals, and gemstones represented within the museum’s private collection. Other souvenirs include candle stones, bookends, wind chimes, and paperweights.

For the ultimate “rockhounding” experience, visitors should pick up one of the gift shop’s gold panning kits. Equipped with the kits and the information the museum staff provides, amateur prospectors can begin hunting the many minerals and gemstones found throughout the state.

How to Visit the Mineral Museum

The Mineral Museum runs its Summer Hours from June 15 to September 15. During this time, the museum operates daily from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.

Guests visiting the museum out of season will have to plan their trip Monday to Friday, 9:00 am to 4:00 pm.

The museum offers free admission and tours.

Call (406)496-4414 for more information, or drop by the museum on the Montana Technological University Campus at 1300 West Park Street Butte, MT 59701

Conclusion

The Mineral Museum at Montana Tech features one of the largest collections of minerals and gemstones in the state. Visitors to the museum can explore geological variations of minerals discovered within Montana, around the world, and even from outer space.

Visitors should contact the museum ahead of time to arrange a free tour group and take advantage of the extensive knowledge of the museum’s curative staff.

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