Joplin History & Mineral Museum
Joplin History & Mineral Museum
504 S. Schifferdecker Avenue.
Joplin, Missouri 64801
Tuesday: 10AM – 7PM
Wednesday – Saturday: 10AM – 5PM
Sunday – Monday: Closed
Children Under 6: free
The Tri-State Mineral Museum may be small but it is a beautifully curated wing of the Joplin Museum Complex in Joplin, Missouri. The museum collection highlights minerals, mining equipment, and the mining history in the Joplin area’s Tri-State Mining District from the 1870s through the 1960s.
Joplin And The Tri-State Mining District
The Tri-State Mining District is notable for its rich lead and zinc deposits. The town of Joplin is one of many in the area established from mining camps. Lead discovered in the Joplin Creek Valley before the Civil War, but mining activity did not take off until after the conclusion of the war. By 1871, the many mining camps in the eastern side of the Joplin Creek Valley were consolidated into a town, named Joplin after the creek.
While mining in Joplin was launched by lead, zinc became the most important mineral mined in the valley. While mining activities drove the economic boom in Joplin, with the close of WWII, subsidies for lead and zinc cease in 1947 and local mines shut down.
Today, the Joplin landscape is doted with open pit mines and mine shafts. Seventy-five-percent of Joplin is undermined, including mine shafts over 100-feet deep. Yet, Joplin’s history as a mining hub is preserved by the Everett J. Ritchie Tri-State Mineral Museum.
Visiting the The Everett J. Ritchie Tri-State Mineral Museum
The Everett J. Ritchie Tri-State Mineral Museum is located in the western outskirts of Joplin, as part of Schifferdecker Park. The mineral collection highlights zinc, lead, and other minerals mined in the Tri-State area along with classic standbys such as a phosphorescent rock room and a display pairing mineral samples with their use in popular consumer products. The development of mining technology and techniques over time is illustrated with a miniature collection. The collection also includes a fine selection of local mining maps.
Ben R. Markley Collection
The museum pairs its indoor mining and mineral museum with the an outdoor exhibit of Tri-State mining machinery featuring the Ben R. Markley Collection. The collection of equipment from regional mines includes ore carts, engines, and other large items all on display for curious visitors.
The “Hidden Jewel of Joplin”
One standout display explores the strange history of the “Hidden Jewel of Joplin.” In 1893 by James Roach, a local miner, is working on a mine shaft 80 feet below ground when he breaks into a crystal cavern 250-feet long, 70-feet wide, and 40-feet high.* The walls are covered in well developed crystals up to 22-inches. The cave had been flooded by the natural water table, but local mining activity at greater depths has drained the area of water, exposing the cave.
On July 4, 1908, the cave is open to the public as a tourist attraction and local gathering place. While in it’s early years, the cave is a popular local hangout, interest wains in the cave and, by 1932, the entrance is sealed to keep out vandals. With the closure of most mines after WWII, The Crystal Cave is flooded along with the rest of the mines in the area as pumps are shut off.
Yet, the cave remains, under a parking lot. Perhaps, one day, an enterprising individual will come to pump out the water and reopen the cave.
* At its greatest dimensions.