Join us at Portland Regional Gem and Mineral Show this weekend, October 7 – 9, 2016

Come see us this weekend at the Portland Regional Gem and Mineral Show, October 8-9, 2016. This is the largest rock, gem, mineral, and fossil show in the Portland area, with 45 dealers and 80 educational exhibits including a beautiful petrified wood display from the Rice NW Museum collection. And Museum executive director Julian Gray, co-author of Minerals of Georgia, will be lecturing at 1:00 pm today and tomorrow at the show.

The event takes place at the Washington County Fairplex. Saturday hours are 10 am to 6 pm; Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm.  Adults $5, children 12 and under are free. Plenty of free parking is available or ride the Max to the Fair Complex/Hillsboro Airport  station (stop #9838 on the Blue Line). Educational fun for the whole family. Great chance to start or enhance your own rock collection, buy beautifully crafted jewelry (“minerals you can wear”) or pieces you can use to make your own, and much more.

Conflict Minerals and your Smartphone

If you’re a Leonardo DiCaprio fan, you’ve probably heard the term blood diamond. It’s the title of his 2006 film set in Sierra Leone against the backdrop of armed conflict funded by diamond sales. The film helped raise awareness about this terrible connection and the steps being taken to break it.

Minerals associated with violence go beyond diamonds. Other lesser-known but vitally important materials play similar roles in conflicts elsewhere. And these materials end up inside your mobile phone.

Our museum’s display at this year’s Denver Gem & Mineral Show (Sept. 16-18, 2016), addresses the issue of conflict minerals in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). These minerals include gold, tantalum, tungsten, and tin ores.

What is a conflict mineral?

A conflict mineral is a resource that directly or indirectly supports paramilitary violence and warfare. Mining in the DRC is carried out by small, local operators using hand tools and manual labor. It is a critical source of income for poor families who would otherwise rely only on subsistence farming to survive. Because these operations are so small and decentralized, however, the ore they produce must go through a long series of traders and middlemen before it can reach the market.

Paramilitary groups exploit this part of the supply chain because the material and money are so difficult to trace. Using violence, murder, rape, and extortion, they force taxes on the movement of ore minerals and use the profits to buy weapons.

How do these minerals affect me?

Materials derived from conflict minerals are critical to products you use every day. Just look at that ubiquitous symbol of high-tech gadgetry: your mobile phone.

Inside every smartphone, you’ll find:

  • Gold, which makes fast electrical conductors that won’t corrode over time
  • Tungsten, used in the vibrating motor that makes your phone buzz
  • Tantalum, needed to help tiny capacitors hold an electric charge
  • Tin, the soldering material connecting components together

These four materials are known collectively as the “3TG.” They have a wide variety of other uses, from hardening drill bits (tungsten) to forming surgical implants and rocket nozzles (tantalum) to shaping window glass (tin).

Circuit Board of a computer.

Image source: Morgan A. Vigil, University of California-Santa Barbara


How are corporations responding?

With such widespread uses of 3TG materials, it can seem impossible for the average person to have an impact on this issue. Fortunately, international governments, corporations, and non-governmental organizations are taking steps to cut off suppliers linked with conflict.

Annually, reports from electronics corporations and other organizations show positive trends: they are making headway in creating transparent supply chains and identifying conflict-free source materials. However, more must still be done, especially to combat smugglers who mix uncertified ore materials with ores certified to be conflict-free.

What can I do to help?

You can help work towards a conflict-free future by being an informed consumer. If you’re shopping for a new phone, look up the manufacturer’s Conflict Minerals Report as well as its device’s processing speed. If you are dedicated to a particular smartphone brand, contact the manufacturer in writing or through social media to express your support for conflict-free sourcing.

And when you’re done with your old device, always remember to recycle. Electronics recycling not only reuses 3TG materials, but also benefits public health and the environment.

We’re Hiring! Museum Educator Position Available

Will you be our new Educator? In this position, you’ll give on-site museum tours to school groups and travel to classrooms and camps to deliver dynamic presentations. You will also have the opportunity to develop new outreach education modules and programs.

Learn more about this job and submit a cover letter and resume through our posting on, just in time for the new school year.

2016 Northwest Fossil Fest at the Rice Northwest Museum

2016 NW FOssil Fest PosterThe Northwest Fossil Fest sponsored by the North America Research Group (NARG) will take place at the Rice Northwest Museum of Rocks and Minerals on Saturday, August 13, 2016, from 10 AM to 5 PM.

The Theme for the 11th Annual Northwest Fossil Fest Fossil Teeth!

The event is free for families to learn about fossils, fossil collecting, preparation, identification, hands on demonstrations, and educational displays. There will also be two great talks.  The first will be Dr. John Bershaw of the Geology Department at Portland State University. He will be talking about how he uses fossil teeth to measure changes in chemistry that tell us something about how the past environment changed.  Victor Perez of the University of Florida will present a talk entitled “The Giant Megalodon and what we know about it from Teeth.”

Paleontologists will be on hand identify fossils and to show kids of all ages how to clean and prepare fossils.  There will be lots of hands on activities and this is a great event for families and fossil fans.  Attendance for the Fossil Fest includes free admission to the museum.

For more information and up-to-the-minute information see Northwest Fossil Fest.

We Did It!


Thanks to you, we smashed our goal to #rockthemuseum and meet Gene Meieran’s $6000 matching challenge for technology upgrades. As of July 31, your donations totaled an amazing $10,335. Dr. Meieran’s match puts our total fundraising up to $16,335!

It’s time for our museum’s technology infrastructure to enter the 21st century. Your generous gifts have made it possible. We’ll soon have new computers, a faster, more secure network, the software we need to support our education and curation efforts, and more.

We’re excited to move forward with this project. Once again, our success is all thanks to YOU!

New Museum Exhibit: “What’s inside a rock?”

Have you ever picked up a rock and wondered about what might be inside? This new exhibit puts everyday rocks under the microscope to show the beautiful secrets inside ordinary stones.

What's inside a rock?

This exhibit sheds light on some of the science behind the gorgeous minerals displayed at the museum. It’s great for families and people of all ages!

Come visit to discover the humble ingredient in over half the rocks on Earth’s surface and find out what, exactly, makes something a crystal. You can even check it out during the museum’s upcoming Summer Fest, taking place this year on August 6 & 7 from 10 AM through 5 PM.

Summer Fest August 6-7, 2016

Our annual Summer Fest 2016 will be at the Rice Northwest Museum of Rocks and Minerals Saturday and Sunday, August 6-7, 2016. This year will be bigger than ever! The hours are 10 AM – 5 PM. Admission is only $5, and kids 17 and under are FREE.

Geodes and other minerals and rocks for sale at vendor booth.The outdoor festival features a wide variety of rock, mineral, gem, and fossil dealers. We will have food, music, and plenty of fun family activities. Of course, our favorites Fred and Wilma Flintstone will be rolling in on the famous Flintmobile to give “rides” to children and adults.

Rock clubs from around the region will be offering wonderful educational displays, demonstrations, and activities.

The road construction is complete so you will have no problem finding your way through the new interchange at Highway 26 and Helvetia.

Come early and stay the whole day. The entire museum will be open during this event, so you can explore all our displays after browsing vendors’ tents and creating a “pet rock.” Bring a picnic lunch or enjoy the refreshments at the museum. It’s a perfect event to spend with friends and family. Bring them all!


Northwest and American Federation of Mineralogical Societies Event in Albany, Oregon

Precious gems and minerals on display in vendor's booth.Oregon state is privileged this year to be honored with the Northwest Federation of Mineralogical Societies Federation Show at the same time as the American Federation of Mineralogical Societies holds their region meeting in Albany, Oregon, July 29-31, 2016. The event is at the Linn County Fair Grounds and Expo Building just off I-5.

Presented by the Willamette Agate and Mineral Society, this year’s theme is “Treasures of the Northwest.”

Rarely do the two federations come together for a single event, so we are honored to have some of the best geologists, collectors, and rock hounds share their passion with so many in one place.

There will be over 200 display cases, and a vast variety of vendors, lectures, daily field trips to a local petrified wood locale, and a silent auction to help raise money for the group. The schedule (pdf) is packed for each day.

Some of the speakers’ topics include a learning about the fossils of Oregon and the Pacific Northwest, studying rocks from a microscopic view, learning more about the newly discovered thalattosaurs, coastal rockhounding, petrified wood, and more.

There are local hotels and campgrounds offering show discounts if you are heading for the full event.

The Rice Museum representatives will be there and we hope to see you there, too!

We need your help to #RockTheMuseum!


We’ve got great news—a generous donor has given us a matching grant challenge to raise funds for technology upgrades at the Rice Northwest Museum of Rocks and Minerals. Dr. Gene Meieran, an Intel Fellow and avid mineral collector, will match all public donations dollar-for-dollar up to $6000 to reach this goal by July 31, 2016.

Your contribution towards this challenge will go toward new computers and network systems critical for our daily operations, collections care, education, and outreach.

Every year, more than 10,000 school children from around Oregon and Washington tour the museum as part of their earth science programs. The museum also provides natural science outreach programs to over 30 schools and groups annually. Built in 1953 and incorporated as the Rice Northwest Museum of Rocks and Minerals in 1996, the museum is now a Smithsonian Affiliate and is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.  It is also the #1 attraction to visit in Hillsboro, Oregon, according to TripAdvisor.

You helped make those things happen. But we still have more work to do.

We need your financial support now more than ever.

This exciting matching challenge is a launch pad for a series of micro-campaigns that will arise throughout the year to help revitalize and #RockTheMuseum. The challenge focuses on our highest priority of needs: technology upgrades.

Currently, the museum’s computers are way past their shelf life. We need to upgrade the technology, network, and Internet infrastructure to be more efficient and secure and to improve our educational programs.

Our museum’s mission is to engage, inspire, and educate generations on the splendor and complexity of our Earth. Whether you contribute $25 or $2500, your donation will help the Rice Museum stay on the leading edge of science education.

Donate today with PayPal, mail a check, drop one off, or contact Julian Gray at the museum by July 31 to ensure we meet our matching donation goal. The Rice Northwest Museum is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization and all contributions are tax-deductible.

Now Hiring Executive Assistant Position

This position is closed.  Thank you for your interest.

Do you have great administrative and customer service skills? Apply to join our team here at the museum as an Executive Assistant to our director. This role is essential to our daily museum operations and includes a variety of scheduling and correspondence tasks, as well as assisting visiting school groups and the general public.