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!

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!

Rice Museum’s Summer Fest – August 4 & 5, 2018

Our 15th annual Summer Fest 2018 will be at the Rice Northwest Museum of Rocks and Minerals Saturday and Sunday, August 4-5, 2018. The hours are 10 AM – 5 PM. Admission is $6 for everyone ages 5 and up!

Summer Fest 2018 Poster

Geodes and other minerals and rocks for sale at vendor booths. The outdoor festival features a wide variety of rock, mineral, gem, jewelry, and fossil dealers. We will have food for purchase, live music, and plenty of fun family activities.

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

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!

 

2018 Rice Museum Benefit Dinner & Silent Auction

Event Phone: 503-647-2418

The Rice Northwest Museum of Rocks & Minerals is hosting a benefit dinner. Please join us July 14, 2018 at 5:00 PM as we honor Mary and the late Dennis Murphy for their contributions and many years of support of the Rice Museum. Dr. Terry Wallace, Director of Los Alamos National (more…)


Curiousity Rover Finds Its First Meteorite on Mars

This week it was announced that NASA’s Curiosity Rover has found its first iron meteorite on Mars. The meteorite represents a time capsule for scientists to study and learn more about our universe.

Photograph from Curiousity on Mars of the largest Iron Meteorite found on Mars. Image by NASA.

Meteorites found on Mars are of special interest as they had little atmosphere to pass through on their way to the planet, and little weather to wear them away, keeping them almost as pristine as when they arrived in our solar system. Continue reading