It seems like children of all ages, boys and girls alike, love rocks: Throwing them, lining them up, collecting them, shoving them in their pockets so you can find them in the washer later, it doesn’t matter. Rocks are cool.
As the parent of a little geologist and ever on the lookout for an exciting outing that might actually teach her kid something, guest blogger Michelle Longo ventured out to find a day trip worthy of rock-star: The Franklin Mineral Museum located in beautiful Sussex County.
Family members of all ages can appreciate the large collection of rocks and minerals. We started out in the lobby which doubles as a gift shop. Amid the usual array of museum gift shop items, there was an enormous display of minerals available for purchase. These samples alone would have made for an impressive exhibit but they were just the tip of the iceberg.
First up in the museum proper is the Local Mineral Room. As the name implies, this room features three commonly found minerals of the area: Franklinite, Willemite, and Zincite. Information about each mineral species, as well as where each piece was found, is abundant.
Up next is the Fluorescent Room. At first glance, the minerals here looked like those in the previous room. But once the lights were turned out and the special ultra violet lights turned on, the rocks fluoresce in a brilliant display of color. Specimens collected from around the world dazzled in reds, greens, and oranges. Turn off all the lights and some of the minerals will continue to glow, or phosphoresce, for a few minutes.
The World Room features an astounding collection of minerals collected from around the world. Pieces range in size from the very tiny to the very large. There are pieces of lava, pumice, gold and pyrite (fool’s gold), and even some meteorites. There is also a birthstone display and preserved insects. Here one can also view an antique microscope exhibit from the Liedy Microscopical Society. These microscopes date from the 1850s to the turn of the century.
Moving on, visitors can observe native American artifacts, fossils and a beautiful petrified wood display. One massive piece in particular is nearly four feet in diameter. Finally, you can head deep into the life-sized, two story mine replica. This exhibit shows what it was like inside the nearby Franklin zinc mines, including tools, equipment, and a mining cart. (Note from Melissa: While her family thought his part of the museum was awesome, she found it a little claustrophobic; so a literal “heads up” if you suffer from a fear of closed spaces.)
After exploring the museum, we ventured outside where a dirt and rock trail lead down to the 3.5 acre Buckwheat Mine Dump. There we were able to explore, climb across the rocks, and select some to bring home. After filling our collection bags, we climbed back up Buckwheat Trail to one of the dark room facilities to check our rocks for fluorescence. Many of them glowed, just as the ones in the fluorescent room had. Even the ones that didn’t were interesting to look at and we enjoyed adding them to our growing collection of rocks at home.
Franklin Mineral Museum
March: Saturday – 10 am – 5 pm / Sunday – 11 am – 5 pm
April – November: M through Friday – 10 am – 4 pm / Saturday – 10 am – 5 pm / Sunday – 11 am – 5 pm
Museum Exhibits & Rock Collecting: Adult $12 / Children (3-12) $8
Museum Exhibits only: Adults $7 / Children (3-12) $5
This post originally ran on Baristakids.com.