Idaho Minerals & Gems
There’s something unique about each part of Idaho, including its local geology. The museum has an extensive collection of rocks, minerals, and gems from each region—from the mining districts of northern Idaho, the rocky batholith of Idaho’s central mountains, and the volcanically active Snake River plain.
These study guides (requires Adobe Reader) highlight each of Idaho’s mining districts, whose minerals are on display at the museum: Northern Idaho, East Central Idaho, West Central Idaho, South Central Idaho, Southwest Central Idaho, Southeastern Idaho, Southwestern Idaho, Far Western Idaho.
Have you ever seen a rock that glows bright colors? At this exhibit you can learn about fluorescence. First take a step behind a curtain where rocks and minerals look quite ordinary. Switch on the ‘black’ light and observe the strange and beautiful colors that now come from these ‘ordinary’ rocks. The atoms in fluorescent minerals absorb the energy from the black light, and then re-radiate it back with its unique signature frequency (color). You’ll never be able to look at fluorescent light bulbs again without being reminded of this exhibit—because those bulbs use the principle of fluorescence to generate the light they create.
When it comes to rocks falling from outer space, there is a lot to see at the museum. We have, of course, pieces of meteors that have survived the journey from outer space to the surface of the earth—including one found on Bogus Basin Road! Take a look at tektites—earth rocks that were ‘fried’ when those fast and hot meteors hit the earth and melted rocks around the impact zone. Most meteors are small, but a few have permanently changed our planet. It is a large meteor that is blamed for the extinction of the dinosaurs around 65 million years ago. That meteor was about 6 – 9 miles across.
Life Leaving Its Mark
Imagine being able to look at what lived before dinosaurs ever existed, or to see the actual bones from fishes that swam in a huge lake covering southern Idaho (including Boise) for millions of years. At the museum, you can see what life was like across our continent, going back more than 250 million years. As you are browsing the museum, look for a fossilized stromatolite. Stromatolites are rocks made by microorganisms. By dating stromatolites, scientists have learned there was life on this planet 3.5 billion years ago!
Idaho Museum of Mining and Geology has a seismic station to track earthquakes around the world!
The station consists of a long-period, horizontal pendulum sensor capable of sensing and recording seismic events depending on their magnitude and other environmental conditions. The sensor has recorded earthquakes as close as 150 miles and as far away as about 9,000 miles.
A bulletin board near the station displays interesting facts about earthquakes, and the station desk has a computer and monitor where the real-time helicorder (earthquake signal traces) can be viewed.
See IMMG’s seismometer data here; it is updated every 10 minutes!
Idaho Mining History
Idaho is rich in minerals, and many of these have great economic value. Hard-working men and women have been mining Idaho’s minerals for over 100 years. View mineral and ore samples from Idaho’s historic mining regions.
The museum has many interesting artifacts, photographs, and tools of the trade. Learn the different types of mining, understand how minerals are extracted, and get a sense of how some of the earliest Idaho miners lived while trying to work their claim.
This beautiful rock and mineral collection was donated by the family of Henry and Fumiko Fujii in 1994. Henry is a past president of the Owyhee Gem and Mineral Society and was renowned for collecting, cutting and polishing rocks, gems, and minerals. While the IMMG has inherited a portion of these rare and beautiful specimens, a larger collection resides at Idaho State University in Pocatello, Idaho. Our museum’s collection has a wide variety of samples from angel wing agate to zeolite specimens. Visit our museum today to see the collection in person or peruse the Fujii Collection through our online collection database.