Museum’s message etched in stone: `Everything starts with mining!’ |

Museum’s message etched in stone: `Everything starts with mining!’

by Carrie ClickPost Independent Staff

LEADVILLE – It’s big and elaborate enough to feel like a museum you might visit in Washington, D.C., or New York City. But it’s not in either of those places. It’s the National Mining Museum, and it’s right where it belongs, in the heart of the Rockies – Leadville, Colorado – a place with a mining history as rich as the minerals pulled out of its mines. Tucked off Leadville’s main drag on 9th Street, the hall of fame, museum and adjoining convention center are housed in Leadville’s former junior and high school – a behemoth building originally built in 1899. The school building appealed to the National Mining Hall of Fame, a mining organization founded in 1977 that was looking for a building located in a mining community for a national museum dedicated to the mining industry. But when Leadville’s school district came back with a price tag of $2 million for the property, the organization members knew they couldn’t afford it. That’s when the group recruited Dick (R.T.) Moolick, former president of Phelps Dodge, headquartered on Park Avenue in New York City. Moolick, a Glenwood Springs resident known locally for his Post Independent letters to the editor, was asked to join the National Mining Hall of Fame board of directors – and negotiate with the Leadville school district for a lower price on the recently vacated building. After a four-hour meeting, Moolick succeeded: 50 cents a year for a 110-year lease. In April 1987, the group took possession of the vacated old school. But the organization had more challenges than simply finding a building.”It was dirty and dusty,” Moolick said. “We had $300, an old desk, a chair and a typewriter.”Now, 15 years later, it’s hard to imagine how far founders have come to create this massive, informative education center, with 13 exhibit rooms within the building’s 17,000 square feet. The museum is reportedly the biggest draw to Leadville, bringing in up to 30,000 visitors a year, many of whom come to Leadville specifically to visit the museum. Walk around the National Mining Museum and you’ll see copies of the same plaque over and over again: “Everything starts with mining, Everything!!!” the plaque says. That message runs loud and clear throughout the museum’s exhibits. Across one wall is a giant drawing of a typical house and yard, with car, lawn mower, computer and kitchen in view. Above the drawing in big letters is “Minerals – Who needs them?”. The exhibit goes on to identify more than 57 different kinds of minerals, from aluminum to zinc, that are in the average home. There are rooms dedicated to different types of minerals – gold, marble, copper, silver and granite. And there’s glass case after glass case filled with rocks, from as close as Leadville’s hills to as far away as Australia’s outback. Up on the third floor is the Mining Hall of Fame – literally. Two big rooms contain rows and rows of copper-colored plaques, which highlight each inductee’s photo and description of their contributions to the mining industry. A third room has only one wall full of plaques – the rest of the room’s walls are empty, awaiting future inductees. Some of the most impressive rooms aren’t really rooms at all. There’s a mining exhibit that is designed like the inside of a coal mine, complete with cavernous passageways, railroad tracks, miner mannequins and the obligatory canary. Another exhibit is a replica of a blacksmith’s shop, and yet another is an assay office. And everywhere, there are those signs that remind you that “Everything starts with mining, Everything!” Contact Carrie Click: 945-8515, ext.

120 W. 9th St. Leadville, CO

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