Posted by: bkivey | 9 October 2014

2014 Vacation Pt. 6

Saturday was warm and sunny. Curious how the best weather seems to come at the end of vacation. I’d seen a Black Bear Diner the day before, and headed there for breakfast. Black Bear is a regional restaurant chain; there’s one where I live, that I’d first discovered while working in Bend. The food and prices are reasonable, and you absolutely will not leave hungry.

I didn’t have anything planned for the day except the flight home, and that didn’t leave until late afternoon. So I had some time to fill, and searched for museums in the area. I ventured downtown to seek out the Medford Historical Museum, and noticed that downtown Medford has a number of buildings from the turn of the last century, although not as well preserved as the ones in Sisters or Jacksonvile. The museum turned out to be less than hoped for, so being interested in the natural world, I drove out to the Crater Rock Museum in a suburb just east of town.

The museum is housed in a nondescript building in a residential neighborhood.  Oregon has a rich and varied geological history, so I was expecting a collection of regional rocks and minerals, with perhaps some fossils from the John Day fossil beds in the eastern part of the state. I found that there was an enormous disparity between my expectations and what the museum has to offer.

You enter into the gift shop, and there are a fair number of geological specimens, all with price tags attached. I thought that this was the entire museum, so was surprised when I went to pay the admission fee and was handed a map of the building. Oh ho.

I have been to some of the finest museums in the country, and Crater Rock Museum, in l’il ol’ Central Point, stands tall in that company. Indeed, for some collections, outclasses them. Their webpage notes that the museum contains the finest collection of rocks, minerals, and gems on the West Coast, and having seen it, I would add ‘or just about anywhere else’.

There aren’t any signs prohibiting photography, and I didn’t ask. I don’t take pictures in museums, even where the activity is allowed. One of my businesses is the marketing of my creative efforts, and I view a museum collection as a creative effort. It takes enormous dedication and resources to assemble a world-class collection, and my thinking is if you want to appreciate that, you can visit the museum and support the effort. Sermon over.

On with the tour:

Discovery Hall

The museum’s visiting collections and some whimsical items made of rocks and minerals. The visiting collection when I was there was a collection of glassworks by Dale Chihuly students. My primary thought on seeing the sculptures was ‘How do they do that?’.

Hallway

Not an official room, but there is an amazing collection of scrimshaw in a display case. I’d seen the odd scrimshaw piece in other museums, but the collection here is remarkable for its size and quality. There is also a large rock, about three feet high and 18 inches around housed in a display case. The rock is covered with mineral formations shaped like a headsman’s axe, and look exceedingly sharp. As they apparently are. The placard informs that the mineral has a name, Bloody Joe, I believe, because it injured everyone who came in contact with it on its trip from China. I’ll say that if you were to fall against this rock, you would be on a first-name basis with your plastic surgeon.

Tom Childers Room

An interesting collection of First Nation artifacts. Not in the same league as the museum at Trees of Mystery, but still fascinating. There are other artifacts scattered throughout the museum.

Delmar Hall

This is where the show begins. The museum must have specimens of every mineral known to man, and a lot of them are in this room. Display cases line the walls, as well as a central island. There is a curtained alcove at the end of the room housing a display case of six or seven dozen fluorescent minerals. The alcove is dark, and a timer cycles through two wavelengths of UV, then afterglow, then natural light. It’s an impressive sight.

Freida Smith Hall

More minerals, including what appears to be every known form of silicon dioxide, meteorites, corals, and shells. I finally found out what the shell I picked off a beach in North Carolina was called. Their example is prettier than mine. There is an exhibit of radioactive minerals, including some that are called ‘highly radioactive’. Glass is no great barrier to short wave radiation, so I wondered just how safe it was to be standing next to some of those rocks.

Founders Room

Memorabilia from the museum’s founder.

Fossil Room

Just what it says. There are bones and imprints, as well as a clutch of dinosaur eggs.

Mentzer Hall

This is the museum’s public space available for rent. Along the walls are many examples of geodes and thunder eggs, the Oregon state rock.

Petrified Wood Room

Many examples of petrified wood, some of them quite large, and the collection contains examples of trees I hadn’t seen anywhere else.  Many specimens were collected within ten miles of the museum location.

Not on the official ‘tour’ route is the lapidary shop. The museum is operated by a rock club, and members can use the commercial-grade equipment to polish their finds. There are several examples of member’s finds in the museum collection. Visitors are encouraged to stop by and chat with the members, who are happy to talk about their avocation.

Crater Rock Museum has been around since 1956, and no one knows about it. It should be Medford’s main claim to fame. If you are anywhere near Medford, and have the slightest interest in natural history, you are doing yourself a disservice if you don’t visit the museum.

The museum was so beguiling, I was concerned that I might miss my flight. I had a couple hours to spare when I exited, so I headed for the airport no great distance away. I’d noticed a restored KC-97 on the airport property previously, and as it was obviously set up for public viewing, thought I might stop by. I wondered about the lack of people around the aircraft mid-afternoon on a Saturday, and soon found out why. The airplane is only available for viewing between 0930 and 1030 on Saturday. That’s it. So if you arrive during the other 167 hours of the week, you’re out of luck.

The rest of the day was rather mundane. Turn in the car, check in, wait for TSA to come back from break. Board the airplane, and head back home to the real world of work and responsibility. I’d booked a starboard seat to view the Cascades, but, more clouds. The landing in Portland was a little more interesting than I would have preferred, but the pilots got it down and nothing broke, so that made it a success in the world of aviation. MAX and then the bus home.

 

 

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