Bring Your Finds to Mystery Mineral Day February 23, 2019

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Mark your calendars for the next Mystery Mineral Day, scheduled for Saturday, February 23, 2019 in the Northwest Gallery. This always-anticipated event runs from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm and is included with admission to the museum.

Every year, the Museum organizes a panel of experts in the fields of rock & mineral identification, fossil study, and meteorite analysis. We bring together experts from multiple fields to inspect your “mystery” finds and tell you what you’ve found. Represented organizations include:

  • The North America Research Group (NARG), a prominent local fossil study organization
  • The Cascadia Meteorite Laboratory (CML), the leading Oregon resource for meteorite identification, based at Portland State University
  • Noted mineral collectors on the Museum’s Board of Directors; past experts included Gene Meieran, Scott Akenbrand, and Bruce Carter
  • Staff from the Rice NW Museum of Rocks and Minerals, including Curator Julian Gray

One of the exciting opportunities you can take advantage of is the chance to present potential meteorites to the panel. Most such specimens turn out to be “meteor-wrongs” and end up being slag, parts of old tools, or other man-made objects. But not always. In 1999 Donald Wesson and his wife Debbie discovered a large, interesting rock in a ditch in Oregon’s Morrow County and carried it home. After 10 years of storage, Mr. Wesson was inspired by a television show about meteorites to take the rock to a local county fair. Experts there were intrigued, and eventually, the 40-lb. rock was indeed verified as a meteorite. The Wessons sold their find, and in late 2018, it was acquired permanently by the Rice NW Museum and is now on display here. If you’ve got an old specimen laying around that you’ve always wondered about, bring it in!

Gravels from the Willamette River and the Pacific Ocean beaches are a specialty every year, and our panel excels in identifying agates, jasper, quartz, and petrified wood. Mystery Mineral Day is also a great opportunity to show off any noteworthy discoveries you made recently, to make the curator aware of your finds. In 2018, local collector Mike Kaufman brought in some excellent amethyst and quartz specimens he discovered in Tillamook County along a logging road in Oregon’s Coast Range. A pair of the noteworthy pieces are now on display thanks to Mike’s generous loan to the Museum.

Wulfenite Specimens Prepared for Spotlight at the Tucson Show

Rice NW Museum is getting prepped and ready to exhibit at the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show in February. In keeping with the show’s theme this year, the Rice NW Museum will be displaying some of its finest wulfenite specimens. Curator Julian Gray began planning the case layout months ago, and he has been working with volunteer Angela Piller to prepare. They teamed up to assess which specimens can travel safely, which ones look best next to each other, and which pieces tell a compelling story on display.

Curator Julian Gray, left and volunteer Angela Piller chose the wulfenite specimens for travel

The museum has more than a dozen top wulfenite specimens, in a surprising variety of colors and shapes. If you’re not familiar with this mineral, wulfenite is a lead molybdate, with a chemical formula of PbMoO4. Unlike other lead or molybdenum minerals, which are usually gray, wulfenite can be orange, yellow, red, and other colors. Wulfenite most commonly forms in thin, square crystals that are sometimes quite lustrous. According to Mindat.org, wulfenite is “a secondary mineral typically found as thin tabular crystals with a bright orange-red, yellow-orange, yellow or yellowish grey color in the oxidized zones of hydrothermal lead deposits.” Primary minerals are generally sulfide minerals like pyrite (iron sulfide) or galena (lead sulfide). Corrosive ground water reacts with primary minerals forming new, more exotic secondary minerals such as wulfenite, which is highly sought by mineral collectors.

Wulfenite occurs in a variety of colors, and was a great choice for this year’s show theme.

To prepare for the move, the curating team donned their protective gloves and got to work. They removed top candidates from the display case in the Main Gallery and assembled the proposed display on a table, where they could mix and match and evaluate specimen heights and sizes. Once they were satisfied with the plan, they began boxing up the materials carefully with bubble-wrap and other precautions for the move.

Packaging for the move is an important consideration; some of the best specimens were judged too fragile to transport and will remain on display.

The final step is to carefully shift around the remaining specimens in the case to avoid any obvious holes. Keen-eyed visitors who know the collection intimately will spot the changes, but some of the top specimens in the collection are deemed too fragile to move and won’t be making the trip.

The final step is to rearrange the specimens still on display to avoid obvious gaps or holes.

The specimens will return and be back on display by the end of February.

Tucson is one of the most exciting times of year and places to go shopping for the museum collection and new museum store stock, so stay tuned to see what new acquisitions Julian brings back!

Coming Soon: Thunder-Egg-Stravaganza 2019

It’s back! The egg hunt that “rocks” is Saturday, April 20, 2019.

Your mission: locate 4 plastic eggs of different colors around our property and redeem them for prizes. Our prize table includes 2000+ WHOLE thunder eggs. We’ll have volunteers on site all day to cut your thunder eggs open so you can be the first to see the surprise inside.

Member tickets will be available March 11, 2019. Members are free, but must reserve tickets in advance. Consider joining us on our mission and purchasing a membership. Benefits include early access for TES event tickets, reciprocal admission with other attractions, and unlimited admission to Rice NW Museum for a whole year!

General tickets will be available April 1, 2019 at 9:00 AM.

Admission is $8 for everyone ages 5 and up, and includes admission to the museum galleries. Advanced online ticket purchase is required. There will be a morning and afternoon egg hunting session again this year. The morning session admission is 10:00 am-1:00 pm, afternoon session admission is 1:00 PM- 4:00 pm. Grounds will be open until 5:00 PM.

More information will be available after Mystery Mineral Day on February 23!

Guided Tours: Now On Sunday!

Our popular guided tours are now available Saturday AND Sunday!

Guided tours are included with admission and start at 2:00 PM on Saturday and Sunday afternoons and last for approximately 90 minutes. Get here a few minutes early to purchase your admission, then meet your knowledgeable museum host at the entrance of the Northwest Gallery at 2:00 PM to join the fun.

Tours are appropriate for all ages and cover the whole museum.

Students in exhibit room - Rice Northwest Rock and Mineral Museum.

New Cases Arrive to Hold Upcoming Spann Exhibit

Noted mineral collectors Jim and Gail Spann of Dallas, Texas, have generously agreed to loan the Museum a selection of about 75 of their finest mineral specimens for one year, starting on March 23, 2019. The loaned minerals were selected from the Spann’s personal collection of more that 15,000 minerals. To properly display the care for and exhibit such an important new collection, the Museum has been working hard behind the scenes.

For example, the Museum recently acquired two new cases to hold the gems and minerals. These cases were built by It’s West Display and Lighting of Golden, Colorado, to the museum’s specification. The cases use state of the art LED lighting that will show off the Spann minerals – each case has more that 50 lights! When the cases arrived in Portland they were moved to our facility thanks to a pair of experienced ‘case wranglers’ from All Service Moving.

The two new cases were securely shipped in wooden “coffins” and strapped to a pallet.

After removal from their shipping containers, the 500 pound cases were moved individually to the Main Gallery in the basement of the Museum. This involved strenuous use of straps, a few raised voices, and considerable care to get down the long flight of stairs, but the professionals handled the move without incident.

The second case makes it safely down the stairs.

Once the cases are completely unwrapped and powered up, Curator Julian Gray will work with Jim and Gail Spann to perform the happy task of planning the layout for the exhibit.

Watch this space…

The international range of the specimens we plan to exhibit is impressive – you’ll see material that originated in Uraguay, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Brazil, and China, to name a few. Mark your calendars – March 23, 2019 through February 2020 – this exhibit is sure to draw a crowd!

Plumbogummite from China (photo courtesy of Gail Copus Spann)

Major Oregon Meteorite finds new home at the Rice Museum

The Rice NW Museum of Rocks and Minerals recently acquired the famed Morrow County meteorite, a 40-lb. specimen discovered by Donald Wesson in 1999 in Morrow County, Oregon. The cone-shaped space rock was already on display as part of a loaned exhibit, but is now a part of the permanent collection.

Rice NW Museum Curator Leslie Moclock and meteorite dealer Edwin Thompson
Rice Northwest Museum of Rocks and Minerals curator Leslie Moclock, left, and mineral collector Ed Thompson showing off the Morrow County meteorite.

The Morrow County meteorite is noteworthy as an oriented specimen, meaning it did not tumble as it fell through Earth’s atmosphere. Instead, it settled into a fixed position, much like NASA’s famed Apollo spacecraft as they returned to Earth. The exterior of the Morrow County meteorite has distinctive flow lines left behind as heat from its fiery passage through the atmosphere melted away its surface.  It also has a distinctive yellowish color due to weathering.

There is a notable anomaly to the Morrow County specimen. There is speculation that the tip of the meteorite’s cone was broken off when farm machinery encountered it. More recently, scientists sawed off a large section from the base to aid in identification.

The Morrow County meteorite is of great interest to scientists.  A team of researchers at The Cascadia Meteorite Laboratory (CML) at Portland State University positively identified the rock as a meteorite.  Further research by CML scientists Melinda Hutson, Alex Ruzicka, and Dick Pugh revealed that the Morrow County meteorite was once part of an asteroid that collided with another object 460 million years ago.  The collision produced multiple fragments, one of which would eventually become the Morrow County meteorite after its journey to Earth.

Morrow County Meteorite
The Morrow County meteorite was discovered in 1999 by Donald Wesson and his wife Debbie. They discovered the interesting rock in a ditch, carried it home, and stored it in various places, including under their deck barbecue. A television show about meteorites inspired Mr. Wesson to take the rock to a local county fair in Castle Rock, Washington in 2009, and a member of the Southern Washington Mineralogical Society referred him to Western Washington University geologists in Bellingham, Washington. Ultimately, the Cascadia Meteorite Laboratory at Portland State University confirmed the specimen as an L6 ordinary chondrite. There is no known crater associated with the Morrow meteorite. 

“This is fantastic news for Oregon collectors and meteorite enthusiasts,” noted executive director Julian Gray. “We have been trying to acquire this specimen for years, and we are especially proud to be able to bring this specimen ‘home’ to Oregon. This important acquisition reinforces the Rice Museum’s commitment to the Pacific Northwest rockhounding community and to the preservation of scientifically important specimens. We hope that stories like the discovery of the Morrow County meteorite will spur other collectors to find the next Oregon meteorite.” he added.

Gray also expressed thanks to the Rice Museum curator. “This was a great trade. I want to express special thanks to curator Leslie Moclock, who completed the trade with famed mineral collector Ed Thompson. We appreciate Ed’s dedication to our museum.”

Camp del Cielo meteorite
The Campo del Cielo group of iron meteorites was discovered in 1576 in northern Argentina by the Spanish military in response to Native legends. Indigenous people in the area had been using iron collected from the area for many years to fashion into weapons, and called the place Pigueum Nonralta, which the Spanish translated to “Field of Heaven,” or Campo del Cielo. Subsequent expeditions in 1783 and 1803 verified that the material was not iron ore, but a meteorite. By 1969, scientists had located a 26 impact craters in a strewn field measured about 2 miles wide and almost 12 miles long. The largest single piece unearthed was named Gancedo, for the nearby town that aided the excavation, and weighed about 31 tons. The el Chaco fragment, named for Chaco province, weighed almost 37 tons, and the combined mass for the field is over 100 tons, which if intact, would have made it the largest such mass in the world, ahead of the 60-ton Hoba meteorite of Namibia. Examination of charred wood from beneath larger Campo del Cielo specimens yielded an impact date of about 4,000 – 5,000 years ago. The metallic composition of the Campo fragments is 92.6% iron, 6.7% nickel, with cobalt, phosphorous, germanium, gallium, and iridium also present. Specialists classified the Campo del Cielo meteorite as a coarse octahedrite to granular hexahedrite, group IAB.

The museum also acquired a new 125-pound Campo del Cielo iron meteorite specimen, and it, too is on immediate display. The two new meteorites were traded for the museum’s 200-lb. Gibeon meteorite specimen, a common iron meteorite from Namibia. The Campo del Cielo iron meteorite is an interesting addition to the museum’s “hands-on” display, because unlike many mineral specimens, the Campo actually benefits from human contact. The surface, when first discovered, tends to be rusty and can flake. The oils in our skin, combined with handling, tends to clean and polish the surface. “The oil from human hands is like magic for the care and curation of any Campo Del Cielo,” Thompson explained. The museum invites visitors to explore the entire meteorite collection to learn more about these fascinating rocks from space.

New Topaz Crystals from Pakistan now on exhibit

A spectacular new specimen of topaz and smoky quartz crystals is now on exhibit at the Rice Northwest Museum of Rocks and Minerals. This exhibit was recently donated by long-time museum supporters Sharon Meieran and Fred Cirillo.

Topaz and smoky quartz from Shigar Valley, Pakistan

The overall specimen, which stands over 14-inches tall, contains two large sherry-colored topaz crystals in a matrix of white/gray clevelandite (a variety of albite feldspar). Several large smoky quartz crystals tower over the topaz crystals. The minerals were found in the Shigar River Valley in the Himalayan Mountains of Pakistan, an area known the world over as a source of many varieties of gems including tourmaline and aquamarine. Spectacular specimens like this one occur in deposits at elevations of 8,000 to 13,000 feet above sea level. If gem crystals are able to grow into an open cavity as they form, we get these amazing and showy rocks.

One of the reasons we close on Mondays and Tuesdays is so that we can perform case cleaning, maintenance and installation of new exhibits such as this one. We received several other fine mineral donations in the last month. Look for these to be on exhibit in the museum soon.

If you would like to come see the new specimen, Rice Northwest Museum of Rocks and Minerals is open special Holiday Hours this Wednesday-Sunday from 10:00 AM-5:00 PM. Happy holidays from all of us at Rice Northwest Museum!

2019 Reciprocal Membership Calendar

Thinking of buying or renewing a membership to Rice NW Museum this year?

For the fourth year, museums and attractions in the Portland metro area and beyond have teamed up to offer a reciprocal membership program in 2019. Members of the Portland Attractions Marketing Alliance (PAMA) initiated this special promotion as a way to show appreciation for each attraction’s loyal members, as well as to highlight the important role that cultural attractions play in the community.

PAMA is excited to announce that all twelve participating attractions will again be sponsoring a free admission month as part of this popular program. Through 2019, membership to one of the organizations listed below is your key to free admission for up to four people during the months listed below:

2019 Reciprocal Membership Calendar: 

Oregon ZooJanuary: Oregon Zoo
4001 SW Canyon Road
Portland, OR 97221
oregonzoo.org

Image result for oregon historical society logo

February: Oregon Historical Society
1200 SW Park Avenue
Portland, OR 97205
ohs.org

Evergreen Aviation and Space MuseumMarch: Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum
500 NE Captain Michael King Smith Way
McMinnville, OR 97128
evergreenmuseum.org

Washington County MuseumApril: Washington County Museum
17677 NW Springville Road
Portland, OR 97229
washingtoncountymuseum.org

Architectural Heritage CenterMay: Architectural Heritage Center
701 SE Grand Avenue
Portland, OR 97214
visitahc.org

Columbia River Maritime MuseumJune: Columbia River Maritime Museum
1792 Marine Drive
Astoria, OR 97103
crmm.org

Deepwood Museum & GardensJuly: Deepwood Museum & Gardens
1116 Mission Street SE
Salem, OR 97302
Parking on 12th & Lee
deepwoodmuseum.org

Clark County Historical MuseumAugust: Clark County Historical Museum
1511 Main Street
Vancouver, WA 98660
cchmuseum.org

Rice MuseumSeptember: Rice Northwest Museum of Rocks & Minerals
26385 NW Groveland Drive
Hillsboro, OR 97124
ricenorthwestmuseum.org

downloadOctober: World Forestry Center
4033 SW Canyon Road
Portland, OR 97221
worldforestry.org

Oregon Coast AquariumNovember: Oregon Coast Aquarium
2820 SE Ferry Slip Road
Newport, OR 97365
aquarium.org

Lan Su Chinese GardenDecember: Lan Su Chinese Garden
239 NW Everett Street
Portland, OR 97209
lansugarden.org

Rice NW Museum memberships are valid one calendar year from date of purchase and start at just $50 and they make great holiday gifts. Visit our membership page or the museum store to join us today!

Members must present a valid membership card from one of the participating organizations to receive free admission. Free admission is valid for up to four  individuals, regardless of membership level.

Donor-Sponsored School Tours Top 1,000 Students for 2018

Nothing fills a museum with energy like school children on field trips. It’s always a pleasure to hear them marvel at our various exhibits of rocks, minerals, fossils, meteorites, gold, and gems. Thanks to the generosity of our donors, Rice Northwest Museum of Rocks and Minerals is proud to offer financial aid for qualifying schools and keep those hallways packed. With the end of the year rapidly approaching, we thought it would be a good time to update our followers about the program.

For background, the program began two years ago with a gift from a new benefactor. In 2018, we raised additional funds at the annual Benefit Dinner, specifically earmarked to help subsidize school trips for in-need communities. Qualifying schools may visit the museum, or we can send offsite programs to their classrooms. The goal is simple – to make sure kids of all backgrounds can experience how we can make earth science education fun. 

Schools can receive up to 75% of their program fees to be covered by our donors, based on the percentage of students who qualify for free and reduced lunches. To date this year, the museum subsidized 19 school visits, mostly for grades 3 and 4, and served over 1,100 kids.

School buses line up adjacent to the Northwest Gallery. We like to see these buses all the time!

This week, a group of 5th graders made the trek from the Centennial School District, on the far east side of the area Rice NW Museum serves. The students learned about the rock cycle, how minerals form, how fossilization occurs, about mining, and about the volcanoes and earthquakes common in our region. 

Museum Educator Ramona Radonich prepares the students to enter the museum. 

If you would like to learn more about donating to the program, you can find more information on our Donations page.

To book a field trip or classroom visit to the Rice NW Museum for your school, please visit the For Teachers page and fill out the program form. We can review your financial aid status after you fill out the booking form. We are accepting reservations through June 2019 and look forward to seeing your students, so sign up today!