With more than 12,000 items on display, the Zobel Exhibit Hall offers much to see. Below we describe just some of the highlights.
Housed in the main exhibit hall, the Oreck Mineral Gallery contains hundreds of fine mineral specimens in fifteen custom-designed glass display cases with fiber-optic lighting. This is the finest display of minerals in the State of New Jersey. Special exhibits include pegmatite minerals, the minerals of China, Russia, and Africa, and displays of individual mineral species such as quartz, fluorite, calcite, stibnite, barite, celestine, and copper.
A new addition to the museum is a 10-ft-long representation of the Periodic Table of the Elements. Each of the 112 cubbyholes in this display contains a sample of the actual element, a representative sample of ore from which that element is obtained, plus an item made from that element. Here you will see the mysterious greenish color of chlorine gas, the brown of liquid bromine, and the silvery color of gallium metal. Currently we know of no larger or more complete display of the Periodic Table anywhere in the world.
View an enlarged image of this Periodic Table display.
A small room in one corner of the Zobel Exhibit Hall houses a 7-foot-wide display of the local fluorescent minerals extracted from the Sterling Hill and Franklin zinc mines. Upon entering this room you will discover why the Franklin area is regarded as the "Fluorescent Mineral Capital of the World." Here you will see minerals glowing brilliantly in the dark in rich shades or red, green, orange, yellow, and blue, often in combinations of two to five fluorescent minerals in the same specimen. This room gives visitors a taste of what is in store for them in the Thomas S. Warren Museum of Fluorescence, where more than 700 specimens of fluorescent minerals from worldwide localities are on display in three large rooms.
A large upright safe in the Zobel Exhibit Hall houses a collection of gold specimens from worldwide mines. Gold in nature takes various forms -- sheets, wires, crystals, and nuggets -- all of which are on display. Warning: Our sense of humor is on view here. Only one side of the safe contains gold specimens. The other side is filled with "fool's gold," the minerals that all too commonly are mistaken for real gold by hopeful prospectors. See if you can tell which is which. Don't feel bad if you get it wrong; many people do.
Near the safe are large glass display cases containing dozens of specimens of native (naturally occurring) silver and copper, two other metals that have a multitude of uses in modern society.
As befits a mining museum, different kinds of ores are on display in various parts of the Zobel Exhibit Hall. Many of the specimens are quite large and displayed in the open, where visitors can examine and touch them. If you've ever wondered where zinc, copper, iron, and aluminum come from, here's your chance to examine their ores, just as they came out of the ground.
Thomas A. Edison was heavily involved in the mining industry in New Jersey and from 1890 to 1900 ran a large iron-mining operation a few miles east of here that employed 400 people. The Zobel Exhibit Hall contains numerous items invented by Edison, including phonographs, telephones, early light bulbs, batteries, and miners' electric cap lamps. Also on display are specimens of iron ore from Edison's mines, and photographs of Edison's iron mining and concentrating works when they were in full operation.
Hundreds of items used in mining and milling operations are on display in the Zobel Exhibit Hall. Here you will find dynamite detonators, rock drills, compressors, jaw crushers, ore cars, sinking buckets, and a wide variety of hand tools used in the mines, plus equipment used in related facilities such as laboratories and blacksmith shops. Five large display cases highlight the evolution of mine lighting and show candlepicks, oil lamps, carbide lamps, and electric cap lamps.
Why fossils in a mining museum? Why not? Fossils come from the Earth, and many fine specimens have been recovered from mines (especially coal mines). Fossils also have value, both scientific and commercial, and are important to anyone attempting to understand how our planet developed over time. Search around in the Zobel Exhibit Hall and you will find dinosaur eggs, dinosaur bones, petrified wood, a full-size replica Tyrannosaurus Rex skull, and a large slab of siltstone showing embedded dinosaur footprints.
Meteorites, yes, we have them. Stones, irons, pallasites, pieces of the Moon and Mars, they're all here in a glass case on the exhibit hall floor. While viewing this exhibit you might find yourself wondering how salt (halite) became a component of the Zag meteorite, or how a large piece of metal (a 28-pound piece of the Canyon Diablo meteorite) could have fallen from the sky. Also on view are impact breccias (rocks shattered into fragments during meteorite impacts) as well as tektites (blobs of glass formed by shock melting of target rocks).
The Zobel Exhibit Hall used to be the Change House for the miners, where they would change into and out of their work clothes each day. Each miner had a locker, to which a chain was attached. The chain looped over a pulley in the ceiling and thence down to a basket, beneath which were two metal hangers. At the end of the day a miner would take off his wet and muddy work clothes, hang his shirt and pants on the hangers, put his boots in the basket, and pull the chain to hoist the basket close to the ceiling. Why? Because the miners wanted their clothes to dry overnight, and since warm air is less dense than cold air, the warmest air in the building was near the ceiling.
The Change House used to be filled with steel lockers, about 300 of them, but all but a few rows of lockers were removed to make room for the exhibits. The baskets remain, as seen in the photograph.
One doesn't often think of mining and art in the same breath, but some artists employed mined materials in their works, and others used mining as a theme for their paintings and sculptures. The Zobel Exhibit Hall includes two splendid European 19-century mine models, colorful "sand bottles" filled with crushed minerals arranged in geometric patterns, several oil paintings, and a selection of bronze and brass sculptures of miners at work. Other, larger bronze sculptures are on the grounds outdoors.