Learn about Minerals & Mineralogy

Museums - Virtual tours:

Smithsonian Natural History Museum virtual tour, including the Hall of Geology, Gems, and Minerals. The resolution is amazing as you zoom in. On the Smithsonian Natural History Museum map, on the upper right, choose the second floor. Then choose one of the 25 well-placed viewpoint dots on the brown side (on the right). Each dot gives a 360-degree view with zoom-in options.  For (dozens? hundreds?) more perfect close-ups, visit the museum's GeoGallery

David Friend Hall virtual tour, at the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History:  Enjoy a 6-minute up-close video of some of the Hall's spectacular specimens.

Geology Museum virtual tour at the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology, O'Harra Building.  Explore the exhibits in the museum.  Watch a cool fast-motion 1 minute 20 second video about putting together a Mosasur skeleton together.  And tour the rest of the campus.  


Natural History Museums – Find a nearby natural history museum wherever you go.

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, Washington, DC – MSDC's home - superb collections and learning opportunities with the mineral sciences department. The department welcomes volunteers to serve as docents or behind-the-scenes helpers for the scientists.

American Museum of Natural History, New York City - another superb collection with fine online info.

Be alert for smaller museums as well as major museums like NMNH and AMNH above. Some mineral locales have interesting museums that can be both informative and personal. Some universities have fine natural history museums or mineral collections open to the public. For example:

Franklin Mineral Museum, Franklin, NJ - fluorescent heaven.

Sterling Hill MIning Museum, Ogdensburg, NJ - includes underground tours of the old mine.

College of William and Mary's world-class Georgiadis Mineral Collection, Williamsburg, VA.

James Madison Univ. Mineral Museum (Harrisonburg, VA) - very fine museum displaying minerals from Virginia and throughout the world.

Virginia Museum of Natural History - they organize many field trips (often cruises up the Potomac) focused on fossils.

Yale University's Peabody Museum of Natural History, New Haven, CT. - and don't miss the fabulous Spann Collection of thumbnail minerals

Paul Broste Rock Museum, Parshall, ND.


The Eastern Federation of Gem, Lapidary and MIneralogical Societies holds week-long sessions of talks, hands-on workshops, and camaraderie at Wildacres, a modern retreat center in the Blue Ridge Mountains near Asheville, NC. Learn faceting, mineral identification, silversmithing, cabochon-making, lots more.  You'll learn a lot, have a great time, and you can't beat the price - around $500 per week for room, board, and workshops, plus time for your own hikes or enjoying the views of the mountains. Spring and Fall sessions each year.

Mineralogy and Geology (simple plus sophisticated):

American Mineralogist (archives) - 1916-1999 are free; 2000 and later are only for subscribers.

Carnegie Institution for Science - Science info, including geology; and free public Capital Science Lectures.

Crystal Forms – Patterns to print, cut, and fold to make your own 3-D crystal structures.

The Dynamic Earth – Great intro to geological processes, created by the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

Fossilweb - fossil info & maps for Maryland, Virginia, other States.

Geology.com - Earth-science news, articles, maps, dictionary, careers.

Handbook of Mineralogy - Individual PDFs describing each of over 4,000 known mineral species.  Very useful.

Mineral and Gemstone Kingdom - Guides to minerals and gemstones plus a Q&A community. Great.

Mineralogical Record – Excerpts and archives from one of the most esteemed and valuable publications in the field.  Plus tons of info and pix about gems and minerals and the people who have built the world’s knowledge of them.  Use “search” to discover resources that are not obvious from the menus.

Mineralogy Database (mindat.org) – Tons of info on minerals, mineralogy, localities, dealers, shows, more. Active online forums.

Minerals of the Binn Valley, Switzerland - Info on the huge variety of minerals in the Binn Vally, Switzerland.  In English.  Scads of great pictures, and if you tire of minerals, there are wildflowers and hiking guides.

Mineral Resources Data System (MRDS) - GPS data for mines around the country, down to the county. The data can be exported in several formats, including Google Earth's KML format. That can be converted to a file that you can then import into your handheld GPS for out in the field. There is free software that does this, called GPS Babel. This way you can plan a trip to a certain area, download mine locations to Google Earth, weed out the mines you aren't interested in, save a KML file, and convert it to the file format for your GPS device. Then use your GPS device's software to import the data to your handheld GPS receiver.

National Mine Map Repository - Request maps of old abandoned mines for free here. Use with great caution.

Rock Collecting -  Great resources to begin exploring rocks, minerals, geology, and collecting. Thanks to Mrs. Katie Gold's students for telling us about this!

RRUFF - Database of Raman spectroscopy , X-ray diffraction, and chemistry of minerals.

U.S. Geological Service – Immense, well-organized resource: mineral info for every US State, geology intro, topographical maps, “ask the USGS” contacts, much more.

USGS Mineral Resources Program

Webmineral – Technical descriptions, links, and images for 4,400+ individual mineral species.  Reference info on crystallography, crystal structures, X-ray powder diffraction, chemical composition, physical and optical properties, various ways of classifying minerals, “hot news”, curious facts, and many external links.

Wildacres - Annual Spring and Fall weeks of hands-on workshops, lectures, field trip, camaraderie at modern mountain-top retreat near Asheville, North Carolina. One low price for everything.  Sponsored by the Eastern Federation of Mineralogical and Lapidary Societies. A magnificent experience.

Zeolites of the World - An exhaustive and free e-book from Mindat.org.

DC Area Geology and Minerals:

USGS (1950): The District of Columbia and Its Rocks and Their Geologic History, by Martha S. Carr - well-written introduction with photos and illustrations. Wishing USGS would update this.

Building Stones of Washington Walking Tours - USGS - two tours, approx. from US Capitol to Lincoln Memorial

Washington's Geologic Setting - USGS

Geology of Great Falls National Park - National Park Service

Geology of Rock Creek Park - overview

DC Area Ice-Age Floods - Comprehensive online tour.  

DC Building Stones - Walking tour of the building stones of Washington, DC, from US Geological Survey.

DC Geology Events - Lectures, geology jobs, and more, thanks to NOVA geology prof Callan Bentley.

Geological Society of Washington - Monthly talks on geological topics (often, but not always, at a pretty sophisticated level).

University of Maryland College Park, Dept. of Geology

Maryland Geological Survey

devonian.org - Maryland fossils and geology

Maryland's Geologic Features:  Building stones of downtown Baltimore - Walking tour

Maryland's Geologic Features:  Sideling Hill Road Cut, Washington County - Superb exposure of 800+ feet of syncline, with visitors' center.

Maryland's Geologic Features: Soldiers Delight Serpentine Barrens, Baltimore County - During the 1800s this was one of the largest produces of chromite in the world.

Mountain Beltway: Geological Thoughts from Washington, DC - Explore geology through the blog posts and excellent photos of NOVA geology prof Callan Bentley.

The Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy (DMME)

Virginia:  Fairy Stone State Park - Small twinned staurolites that crystallized in the Appalachian orogeny. 

National Organizations:

American Federation of Mineralogical Societies

The Eastern Federation of Mineralogical and Lapidary Societies, Inc.

United States Faceters Guild