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Mineral Museum

New Mexico Tech Campus
Socorro, New Mexico
(view a street map or get directions)

Dr. Virgil W. Lueth, Museum Director, (575) 835-5140
Kelsey McNamara, Museum Curator, (575) 835-5418
Robert W. Eveleth, Emeritus, Associate Curator, (575) 835-5325

Museum Assistants:

  • Isabella Dewers
  • Quintessa Guengerich
  • John Huckabee
  • Joey Phillips
  • Sydney Wittman

Coronado's Treasure Chest

copper chili (a spinel twin)
Copper "Chile" from Santa Rita, New Mexico, a spinel twin - our unofficial mascot
Photo by Jeff Scovil
flourite
Fluorite from the Hansonburg District, Socorro County, New Mexico
Photo by Jeff Scovil

Upon the campus of the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology lies one of the great treasure troves of the southwest. Gold, silver, and precious gems, the objects of the Conquistador's travels and travails, glitter on glass shelves next to other spectacular mineral forms. This El Dorado was given the honorary title "Coronado's Treasure Chest" by the New Mexico Cuarto-Centennial Commission in 1939. Located in the Headen Center on the NMT campus (see map), modern travelers on the Camino Real can visit seven days a week. Read about our facilities and history.

The mineral museum can trace its origins back to the very beginnings of the New Mexico School of Mines in 1889. The collection was assembled to help in the education of engineers and geologists. It was soon built into one of the finest in the world, winning gold medals at the St. Louis World's Fair 1904 and the Panama-California exhibition of 1915. Unfortunately, this early collection was lost in a fire in 1928. The museum was reestablished by donation and purchase in 1935. The collection of School of Mines benefactor Cony T. Brown was added in 1938. Three thousand mineral specimens in 1938 have grown to over 18 ,000. “Coronado's Treasure Chest” is still renowned as can be seen at invited exhibitions at the Denver and Tucson Gem and Mineral Shows and featured articles in mineralogical magazines from around the world.

The main exhibit hall, constructed in 2015 , highlights top-quality minerals from New Mexico, the United States, and around the world. Over 5,000 mineral specimens are displayed in the main gallery. Spectacular mineral specimens from mining districts like Magdalena, Organ, and Santa Rita (to name a few) , are presented in thematic displays illustrating the mineral wealth of each locality. Other thematic displays include Systematic Mineralogy, Uranium Mining of New Mexico, Lapidary, Gold & Silver, Agates & Geodes, Meteorites, and Petrified Wood. The New Acquisitions case highlights recent additions to the collection from generous donors. 

Our most dynamic exhibit is the Guest Display, which is transformed by guest collectors on a yearly basis. Each year, three mineral enthusiasts showcase a portion of their collections for the public to admire.  Mining memorabilia, a modest gemstone display, and a breathtaking ultraviolet-mineral exhibit are also found in the museum.  Our classroom includes a fossil display, educational demonstrations, and an Augmented Reality Topographic Sandbox.  Classroom reservations must be made in advance with Cynthia Connolly, our Outreach Coordinator (575-835-5624).

In addition to the display gallery, a large reference collection is maintained for scientific research and is available by contacting the mineralogist.

For more information contact:

Dr. Virgil W. Lueth, Senior Mineralogist
New Mexico Bureau of Geology & Mineral Resources
New Mexico Tech
801 Leroy Place
Socorro, NM 87801
(575) 835-5140.

Purpose & Mission

mineral display
New Mexico minerals on display, with chemical formulas & locality information on display cards.
Photo by Matt Zimmerer

The Mineral Museum is a public facility founded upon the need to understand the natural mineral resources of New Mexico and preserve materials of historical, aesthetic, and cultural value. The Mineral Museum has formally existed at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology since 1927, although the New Mexico College of Mines has actually maintained a mineral collection since its beginnings in 1889. The museum became part of the New Mexico Bureau of Geology & Mineral Resources (NMBGMR) in 1960 (then Bureau of Mines & Mineral Resources). The museum exists because its function fulfills a number of activities charged to the Bureau of Geology as stipulated by Chapter 69 of the New Mexico Statute. This includes portions of sections:

69-1-2. Purposes and functions: ...B. to collect typical geologic and mineral specimens and samples of products; to collect photographs, models and drawings of appliances used in mines, mills, smelters, oil wells, natural gas wells and the refineries of oil and natural gas in New Mexico;... H. to make qualitative examinations of rocks and mineral samples and specimens; I. to assist in the education of miners, prospectors, and the general public through lectures and presentations;... J. to consider such other kindred, scientific and economic problems and questions as in the judgment of the board shall be deemed of value to the people of the state...

The Mission of the Museum

The mission of the museum is to procure, display, and curate geological, mineralogical, and paleontological materials, primarily from the State of New Mexico, for the purposes of research, education, posterity, and enjoyment for the citizens of the state.

The Museum accomplishes its goal through:

  • Public display of the best and most representative specimens and materials
  • Educational programming
  • Interpretation of natural history information
  • Selective collection, preservation, research, and publication in the Museum's chosen fields
smokey quartz twin
Smoky Quartz Japan Law Twin from the Ortiz Mountains, Santa Fe County, New Mexico.
Gift of Ron Boyd, photo by Jeff Scovil.