The Importance of the Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum

by Stan Celestian
My first acquaintance with Museum was in 1977 after I started teaching Geology at Glendale Community College. As a teacher of Physical Geology and Mineralogy, I wanted my students to experience the variety and beauty of rocks and minerals. Aside from geological field trips, part of a student’s experience was to visit the Museum. Most students were genuinely interested in the great variety of materials on display, as attested by their many questions. The displays also instilled in them a sense of the importance of mining, as it provided the basic materials for our modern civilization. A first-hand look at the wonderful crystals on display helped them to better understand crystal symmetry, form, habits, and mineral associations. The displays helped establish a better understanding of the topics covered in their basic mineralogy class. Otherwise foreign concepts became clearer through their visit to the Museum.
In 1994 my wife Susan became the Educational Curator of the Museum. (She soon became the Curator.) Among a variety of other tasks, she developed a much more complete “teacher’s kit” and offered classes dealing with basic rock and mineral identification classes. My involvement in the Museum thus took a quantum leap. After teaching geology for several years at GCC, giving talks to local schools and clubs, I was well aware of the need for continued education for interested people, as well as teachers of Earth Science. Sue and I developed short classes in:
– Rock Identification
– Mineral Identification
– Basic Crystallography
We also guided field trips to local points of geological interest.

In addition to the classes I helped teach, Sue and I were committed to providing quality specimens of a great variety of geological materials for the very popular teachers’ kit. These kits were upgraded to offer a greater variety of rocks and minerals, and of great importance, the specimens were more than mere chips. They were of a quality that could be used as an example or for testing in a classroom setting. Hundreds of these kits were distributed across the state, as well as across the country. Any teacher who had acquired o¬ne of these kits was better equipped to deal with a variety of teaching standards, and hopefully, with these quality specimens, took an added interest in the topic that transferred to a better learning environment for their students.

Along with the “normal” routine of interacting with students, teachers and the general public, the Museum hosted two popular, geology-related events. The Prospector’s Day in February, and Family Day in October. Both were quite hectic and rewarding. My “job” was to help where needed. Normally I would drift from place to place to answer questions visitors would have about the exhibits, or answer general geology questions. Sue and I were also “on-call” at the main desk to identify specimens that people would bring along. In general, everyone who attended one of these special events enjoyed themselves and gained a bit of geological and Arizona mining history knowledge.

The Museum represented a truly positive scientific experience that was very informative as well as very friendly to all that visited. Unlike many other museums, the Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum was very informal, but still very professional. Sue and I took pride in being very available to visitors as well as being very scientifically accurate in what we told visitors. The Museum was a unique gem in Phoenix. It was a great loss, both scientifically and historically when it closed its doors to the public and to the thousands of school children who will miss a great opportunity for an exposure to this aspect of geology.

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