Thursday, July 30, 2015

Nature Geek Vacation Destinations - A.E. Seaman Mineral Museum (Houghton, MI)

One of my favorite destinations in the state of Michigan is the A.E. Seaman Mineral Museum at Michigan Technological University.  Michigan Tech and the Seaman Mineral Museum are located in the city of Houghton, MI.  Located on the Keweenaw Peninsula in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, Houghton is approximately a seven hour drive from Mid-Michigan. 

The Seaman Mineral Museum is named after Arthur Edward Seaman, the museum's first curator.  Seaman was the head of the Department of Geology and Mineralogy at the Michigan College of Mines (now known as Michigan Technological University) and became curator of the museum upon retiring from teaching.  His personal mineral collection was donated to the museum upon his death.

The Seaman Mineral Museum is the official mineral museum of the State of Michigan and contains the finest collection of Michigan minerals in the world.  A large portion of the museum is dedicated to copper and iron ores that can be found in the western Upper Peninsula.  During the late 1800s and early 1900s, Michigan was the copper capital of the world with an estimated 11 billion pounds of copper being mined.  Much of this history is preserved as part of the Keweenaw National Historical Park.

After entering through the museum's gift shop, the first thing you see is a massive sheet of Michigan copper.  The photo below includes me standing next to it for scale.  If you visit the Seaman Museum, I will (probably) not be standing there.

Native copper sheet (with 5ft 10in human for scale). 
If you advance beyond this sheet copper you start to examples of Michigan copper and silver - silver is often found in the same veins as copper.
Keweenaw copper

The museum also has a section devoted to the Upper Peninsula's other great mineral resource - iron ore.  While the copper resources were in a line down the Keweenaw Peninsula,  the iron ore was concentrated in three separate locations: the Marquette Range near Marquette (duh!), the Gogebic Range near the town of Ironwood, and the Menominee Range near Iron River and Iron Mountain.

There is also a section devoted to other Michigan mineral resources such as halite (that's salt, as in NaCl), gypsum, and sulfur.

Once you get past the exhibits on Michigan minerals you still have more than half of the museum to explore!

Michigan minerals are located in the cases to the left, other displays are to the right
There is a room dedicated to fluorescent minerals - these minerals glow when exposed to different wavelengths of ultraviolet (UV) light.

In addition to their own collection, as the official mineral museum of Michigan, the Seaman Mineral Museum also curates the rock and mineral collection of the University of Michigan.  Some of this collection is currently on display at the Seaman Museum.


Much of the remainder of the museum is dedicated toward the museum's systematic mineral collection.  In this type of collection, minerals are usually grouped by their chemical classification, method of formation or other features that they have in common.

Other displays highlight how feature of the rocks can be used to tell their stories.

Of course, one of the best things about the rocks and minerals on display is simply their beauty.

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