This weekend we went on an awesome outing with the Cub Scouts. Just about an hour north of us is Sterling Hill Mining Museum.
What I couldn’t stop exclaiming about is that I’d never heard of this mine, which was operational until 1986 and was a very prominent zinc mine. During its peak operation in WWII it was operating 24/7! However, eventually zinc prices dropped, property taxes rose, and the mine closed. It was bought and reopened as a museum and wow, was it fascinating. We began the tour with a stop in an area where the kids learned about 6 different types of rocks and then went to collect examples of them. After that our guide took us into the museum. I could have happily spent an hour in this area. It was the building that the miners used to change in before and after their shifts.
They retained the lockers, gang shower,
and baskets that the miners’ wet work clothes were put in and hoisted up to the ceiling to dry. Then there were interesting minerals, rocks, gems, and mining related stuff everywhere.
Not only was it interesting, but very appealingly displayed (to me.)
I was taken with this glass cabinet just filled with the heavy flashlights the miners carried.
Or check out this periodic table of the elements with examples of the elements.
Or the fossils.
After that section it was time to actually head into the mountain. There was something the fact that the entrance to it really is just a set of doors into the mountain that was really cool.
Our guide took us through tunnels
, stopping to explain all kinds of things, such as how the miners got down to all the 27 different levels (a terrifying contraption called the “man cage” that basically went down a pitch black 45 degree tunnel to the next landing), safety, how they blasted out the boulders, identified where the zinc was, transported it, and the equipment they had. Of course all the kids loved seeing the terrible toilet situation in the mine. A really big hit was the amount of phosphorescent minerals found in this mine. We all got rocks that glow under black light and had many opportunities to be in black light rooms.
There were also large heavy pieces of machinery inside and outside of the mine that were fascinating to look at.
And many statues. My favorite is this one. I think it’s hilarious-a big buff shirtless miner with the delicate canary (and yes we learned about canaries in coal mines.)
It was a long tour, but the kids remained interested throughout. So, if you live in New Jersey, definitely consider this as an outing. We learned so much, it was really cool to see, and it was a fascinating experience.