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Mineral Museum

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

Hours: (Mountain Standard Time)
9 AM - 5 PMMonday - Friday
10 AM - 3 PM — Saturday & Sunday
(we are closed most university holidays)

For general information contact:

New Mexico Bureau of Geology & Mineral Resources: Bookstore
New Mexico Tech
801 Leroy Place
Socorro, NM 87801

Our bookstore is located on the ground floor of the Headen building across from the Mineral Museum.


Museum Entrance

Museum Assistants

Our Mineral Museum and bookstore employ students from a variety of majors to help with the day to day tasks, and to stay open on the weekends. Student tasks include mineral sales, publication sales, customer service, answering phone calls, and Bureau events.

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
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.

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

Museum Purpose

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...

Museum Mission

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. We seek to inspire and act as a gateway to a love of science and other STEM fields.

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.


old museum1A view of the original mineral museum, ca 1905. NMBGMR Photo Archive No. 1814

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.

old museum2Another view of the original museum, ca 1905
NMBGMR Photo Archive No. 1813

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.