On April 26, 2016, the students of Explore 2000 Middle School became miners exploring the Sterling Hill Mining Museum. They took the tour through the mining tunnel, experiencing recreations of what the miners saw and did many years ago. They walked through tunnels and shafts that looked ready for work, peopled with mannequins dressed in authentic costumes with tools and machinery dating as far back as the 1830’s. There were also rooms below ground exhibiting collections of the old tools. The Rainbow Room shows many of the fluorescent rocks and other items that fluoresce in the ultraviolet light. The room and the tunnel nearby show off the fluorescent qualities of the types of zinc that were the main ore minerals found in the mine.
The Thomas S. Warren Museum of Fluorescence showed cases of the minerals found in the mine. Each case displayed at least twenty examples of a specific mineral type. The fluorescent theme of the museum is demonstrated by minerals from many parts of the country with explanations of the activators that cause the glow. It even contains a room devoted to the history of the development of ultraviolet lights.
Ore wasn’t the only thing found by the miners. Fossils also came from the mine, including the bones of dinosaurs. The Zobel Exhibit Hall contains a life-size reproduction of a Tyrannosaurus Rex skull, dinosaur bones, their footprints in a slab of stone, eggs, and petrified wood. The Exhibit Hall also features a periodic table display with 112 sections, each containing a real example of the element and some information about it. There’s also the Edison room with displays of Edison’s New Jersey iron mining operation along with some of his inventions. The Hall has ore specimens and displays and even meteorites.
An entry from a miner’s diary as imagined by a First Year student:
Miner Diary Entry
by Yazan Baghdady
January 15, 1986
I found out today that the mine is closing in a few months. I’ve been working very hard to get overtime pay and searching for both jobs and minerals to sell to collectors, but I can’t find either. Today I almost took my tag home, but I remembered. Thank god I don’t have to clean the toilets in two days. I feel kind of bad for the new miner, Richard Dixon. He forgot his tag twice, and his light went out when he was on level 18. However, instead of staying put, as any normal miner would, Dixon wandered around and almost got blown up. The boss had to pay 20 miners overtime to find him, so Dixon is probably going to clean the honeypots on Friday, unless someone does something stupider, which is unlikely, given our jobs are on the line. The bosses have been laying off bad miners left and right to prepare for the closing of the mine. I’m lucky that I’m bringing in a decent amount of zinc, but it’s been getting harder to find. Honestly, I think that we’ve mined most of the zinc to find. I’m not crazy about being a miner, but I have to be able to support myself. Anyway, I’m getting desperate, especially because other miners are finding gems when I can’t. By now, I’m looking more for gems than zinc. One of the only interesting things that happened this week was that Michael Fettick almost fell into the crusher while breaking rocks. To finish this entry, I’m still looking for a job, but I have an interview next week. If this is ever read, wish me luck.
A First Year student, Lorey Cutkelvin, wrote about her experience: