South Dakota’s rich deposits and mining history is done justice by the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology Museum of Geology. Located on the campus of the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology, the museum features a collection of notable fossils, gems, minerals, metals, meteorites, and other notable geologic artifacts.
While there is a wide selection of international specimens, the local collections set the museum apart. Browse a wide variety of Fairburn Agates, the state gem of South Dakota, paired with the state mineral, rose quartz. Take your time to appreciate the dedicated display for the Homestake Gold Mine featuring Homestake ore, gold, and extensive history. There are even rocks samples from the Black Hills
Replicas are often snooze-worthy space fillers in many museums. Such is not the case for the fascinating collection of historical gold nugget casts at the Museum of Geology. These casts preserve nuggets discovered during the late 19th century. While the nuggets have long since been melted down, these casts are a testament to the scope of these amazing discoveries.
- “Beauty” discovered in 1858, 9 feet below the surface of the ground in Kangaroo Gully, Bendigo, Victoria, Australia weighed in at 242 ounces (22 karats).
- The “Viscount Canterbury” of John’s Paddock, Berlin Diggings was discovered on May 31, 1879, 15-feet deep and clocked in at 23 karats.
- On July 11, 1972, the “Schlemm” nugget is discovered 3-feet deep in Dunnolly, October, weighing in at 538 ounces.
- 100 pound “Taschkee Nugget” found in 1842, Targanka, Ural Mountains, USSR.
- 249 ounce (23 karat) “Needful” nugget found May 10, 1871 in Catto’s Paddock, Berlin Diggings, Victoria, Australia.
While all the nugget casts are notable, the “Welcome Nugget” is certainly the main feature. Discovered in Ballarat, Australia, on June 9, 1858, by night shift men at the Red Hill mine, the “Welcome Nugget” is 2,217 ounce, 99.6% pure gold, and took 30 minutes to haul to the surface. The 22 Cornishmen who had been working the mine sold the nugget for £10,050. The nugget was displayed in Melbourne, Australia and London’s Crystal Palace until it was melted down in November 1859 and made into sovereigns. Today, the nugget would be worth over $3 million by its weight alone.
Visiting the Museum of Geology
Admission is free to the Museum of Geology. Your greatest challenge will likely be finding parking on campus, and that is still relatively simple. While we focus on mining-related subjects, we would be remiss not to acknowledge the remarkable fossil collection. The museum is relatively small but absolutely worth the visit.