Located in Tucson, Arizona, the University of Arizona Mineral Museum is a nonprofit mineral museum that functions as part of the University of Arizona Science Center, funded by the University and the Tucson Gem Society. The University of Arizona was established in 1885, the first university to open in the new Western territory. In 1892, faculty from the University of Arizona Department of Mines and Geology established a permanent collection representing the area's ores and minerals, along with artifacts linked to mining, milling, and geology practices.
This collection was incorporated as part of a territorial museum at the university in 1893, which also included historical documents. When Arizona gained its statehood in 1912, the museum was renamed the State Museum and was housed on the university's campus in the Library Building until 1915, when it moved into the Agricultural Building and shifted its focus to archaeology.
A standalone mineral museum was officially recognized in 1919, when the State Museum's mineral holdings were separated from the main collection and moved to the second floor of the Mines and Engineering Building. In 1958, the museum was moved to the Geology Building, and since 1993, it has been housed on the lower level of the Flandrau Science Center and Planetarium. In 2009, following budget cuts to the University of Arizona, the Flandrau was closed, but reopened in 2010 after 9 months of fundraising efforts. In 2013, the museum received its largest donation ever, a collection over 8,000 minerals, including 1,000 specimens not previously in its collections.
The museum is home to more than 40,000 mineral specimens, meteorites, and gems from around the world, including a collection of over 7,000 Micromount objects that are so small they can only be seen under a microscope. The Modern Gem and Jewelry collection, presented in collaboration with the Somewhere in the Rainbow Foundation, houses gems such as rubies and sapphires and features displays on gem-cutting techniques. The American Mineral Heritage: Harvard Collection exhibit is a collaboration between the University of Arizona and Harvard University, featuring some of the rarest fluorescent minerals in the world. The Crystalline Treasures: the Mineral Heritage of China marks the first time many of the museum's Chinese specimens have ever been displayed in America.
In The Best of the Best: Prize Minerals from the Vaults of Arizona's Collectors, minerals from some of the most award-winning collections in the state are brought together in one display. The museum also features small selections of specimens from private collections from around the world, including items the Princeton Collection, the Gemological Society of Great Britain, and the Flagg Mineral Foundation as well as an array of specimens collected in Arizona prior to 1900.
The museum is also home to two large fossil exhibits. Meet the Trilobites: Arizona's First Inhabitants focuses on the preserved remains of trilobites, prehistoric animals that flourished in the ocean that once covered what is now Arizona. The Mark LeFont Collection displays large fossils, including dinosaur bones and prehistoric mammal skeletons, and features an exhibit of interactive games and multimedia stations.
University of Arizona Campus Museums
The Mineral Museum is part of the Flandrau Science Center and Planetarium, the only planetarium in Southern Arizona. It is focused on astronomy and earth science and features a large observatory. In addition to the Flandrau and Mineral Museum, the University of Arizona is also home to seven other public museums that cover a wide range of topics. The Campus Arboretum features trees from around the world, while Biosphere 2 contains six biomes, including an ocean and a rainforest. The Arizona State Museum is a Smithsonian affiliate, dedicated to the history of the region. The University of Arizona Museum of Art features over 5,000 works, with an emphasis on Renaissance art. The Center for Creative Photography houses a rotating display of contemporary photographic art. The Jim Click Hall of Champions is dedicated to the athletic history of Arizona, and a Pharmacy Museum houses a unique collection of pharmacological artifacts.
Ongoing Programs and Education
The museum is working to compile an accessible oral history of mining life, history, and heritage in the Southwest. Known as the Miner's Story Project, the collection of interviews and stories can be heard at the museum and online.
The University of Arizona College of Science sponsors educational programming at the museum, held throughout the Flandrau Science Center complex, including a Science Cafe series, which invites community discussion in a relaxed setting. UA Fusion science camps are also offered every summer for children of all ages. Museum Discovery programs give visitors an opportunity to learn more about the collections from University of Arizona faculty.
1601 E. University Blvd., Tucson, AZ 85719, Phone: 520-621-7827