In 1996, the museum moved to a new, specially designed, 4100 sq. foot facility in the Workman Addition. Mineral exhibits in the 1900 sq. ft. display gallery concentrate mainly on New Mexico but also include specimens from around the world. A micromineral collection is maintained along with mining artifacts and mineral products. A modest fossil collection rounds out the collections. Eight important mining districts and areas are featured along with a display of minerals from other New Mexico localities. These localities include: the Organ, Santa Rita and Tyrone, Fierro-Hanover, Hansonburg, Magdalena, Old and New Placers, NM Pegmatite and NM Uranium districts. Other featured displays include; minerals of the southwestern US (exclusive of NM), minerals from the United States (exclusive of the southwest), and fine mineral specimens from around the world. A Dana reference collection will also be featured. A long time favorite, the ultraviolet mineral display, is also maintained - featuring NM fluorescent minerals. New for the museum is a separate 800 square foot education-demonstration room for educational exhibits, which includes a second floor exterior balcony. Fossils, mineral products, rocks, and interactive educational displays will be featured in the new facility. A portion of the museum gallery. Individual district displays are in the back, regional displays occupy the center cases.
All casework in the new facility is composed of glass, stainless steel, painted maple, and white oak. Two standup cases dominate the interior. Cases line the outer walls of the gallery. The ultraviolet collection lies behind the Dana reference collection, in a bay-window setting. The display is walk through without any doors or shades. Lighting for the cases consists of full-spectrum fluorescent lights. The cases can accomodate additional lighting, with additional electrical hookup built in. Open areas are maintained at the entry and each end of the display area to accomodate additional displays for the future. A sales case is maintained in the entry way so that the visitor may bring a mineral treasure home. All proceeds from the sales case are used for the purchase of new museum material.
In addition to the displays, the museum offers a large reference collection for scientific use. The reference collection is housed in a 720 sq. ft., high security warehouse and is available to all interested persons (an appointment should be made with the museum director before its use). The museum also has two lab facilities: 1) A 200 square foot "dirty" lab contains saws, polishers, a fume hood, and rock crushing/splitting equipment and 2) a 530 square foot "clean" lab that houses the computerized catalog and other preparation materials. The museum also offers traveling exhibits and its personnel provide educational programs to amateurs and professionals alike.
A little over one hundred years ago the New Mexico Territorial Legislature established the New Mexico School of Mines (now Institute of Mining and Technology). The charge to the school was to provide for higher education in the earth and related sciences. The school's board of trustees (now "Regents") was assigned the responsibility of prescribing the various courses of study, of equipping laboratories and classrooms in a manner appropriate for instruction, and of assembling (for educational purposes) a geological and mineralogical cabinet. President Fayette A. Jones carefully selected and acquired many specimens during his travels for the fledgling school and to him must go the credit for creating, in 1899, the first collection. With little or no fanfare, Socorro's first museum of any kind was born. Nurtured by dozens of earth scientists over the years, the collection has steadily evolved through prosperity and depression, fame and tragedy, to a superb assemblage of over 15,000 pieces today. The museum is maintained by the New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources and its staff routinely draws upon this mineralogical legacy to participate in educational events and gem and mineral shows throughout New Mexico and the United States. In addition, the collection provides ongoing aesthetic, scientific, and research benefits for all of society. One great story that incorporates history and minerals with some key players is the story of St. Patrick's Day. Read more about C.T. Brown's Smithsonite and the NM Tech St. Patrick's Day Celebration.
For a complete history of the museum see:
Eveleth, R.W. and Lueth, V.W., 1997, A Rocky History: The first one hundred years of the Mineral Museum in New Mexico, USA: New Mexico Geology, v. 19, p. 65-75.
Available from the NMBGMR Publications Office.