Watch the video to experience a virtual visit to the Clarence R. Smith Mineral Museum!
Scroll below the video to view the script for the narration.
Hello and welcome to the Clarence R. Smith Mineral Museum! My name is Stefanie Hudzik, I am the current museum specialist, and I’m going to be leading your virtual tour. If you are from the Youngstown area, you may already be familiar with our museum’s namesake, Clarence R. Smith. Regardless, I thought we should start our tour by first talking about how the pieces in this collection got to our museum.
So who was Clarence R. Smith? Well it turns out this story involves not only one, but TWO Clarence R. Smiths: A father and son, known affectionately by their nicknames “Smitty” and “Sonny.” Smitty grew up in Youngstown, Ohio in the early 1900s. Although his beginnings were very humble, he built himself into an accomplished businessman. His interest in minerals didn’t blossom until later in life, but thanks to his frequent traveling around the world, he was able to amass a large collection of unique geological pieces.
Eventually Smitty decided to showcase his collection by opening a rock shop at his home, which caught the eye of former YSU geology professor Dr. Ikram Khawaja, who asked Smitty to borrow around 25 pieces to teach with. Smitty was so delighted by the idea that he told the professor to keep them. Smitty died not long after this interaction.
Like his father, Sonny was also a successful businessman. Sonny expanded upon and move the collection to Adamas Jewelry & Gifts in Boardman, Ohio, where it could continue to be viewed and appreciated by the public. Dr. Khawaja remained in touch with Sonny over the next two decades and would eventually convince him to donate the collection to YSU’s department of geology.
The Clarence R. Smith Mineral Museum officially opened on June 16th, 2001, with a formal dedication ceremony that included speakers such as the university president as well as Dr. Khawaja and Sonny himself. Many were in attendance to celebrate the opening of this new educational resource for both the YSU campus and the Youngstown community.
Perhaps you are wondering where you can find the museum. The museum is located on the campus of Youngstown State University which is in Youngstown, Ohio. The museum is managed by the PAGES department, which stands for Physics, Astronomy, Geology, and Environmental Science. We are a part of the STEM college. The museum is housed on the first floor of Moser Hall, on Lincoln Avenue.
Many YSU students come to Moser Hall for classes in geology and environmental science, as well as engineering, since we share the building with the engineering department. In fact, the main entrance (if you are entering Moser Hall from the center of campus) says William Rayen School of Engineering. If you are looking for the main entrance, you can also look for the red sculpture out front.
Coming in to Moser Hall from campus, you enter an atrium which is usually full of tables, chairs, and studying students But when this was filmed during the summer of 2022, there was construction going on, so the atrium is a bit bare. On the left side of the atrium there is a small display window, which offers a sneak peak into what’s inside the museum for those who may not know what to expect. Let’s have a peak inside.
I like to start most museum tours by asking visitors to think of what comes to mind when they think of a mineral. Most people have heard the word mineral before, but do you really know what a mineral is? Would you know a mineral to see one? Let’s find out.
So what IS a mineral?
Sometimes the word mineral is loosely used to describe anything that isn’t a plant or an animal that comes from the Earth. As it turns out, in the field of geology there is a list of criteria for something to be considered a mineral:
Number 1: All minerals are solid. They are not liquid, gas, or plasma.
Number 2. All minerals are inorganic, which means that they are not alive and have never been alive.
Number 3: All minerals are naturally occurring, which means they are formed by Earth processes.
Number 4: All minerals have a definite chemical composition, which is like a recipe that is unique to each mineral. Just like with cooking, using differenet ingredients, and different amounts of each ingredient, will give you different results. With minerals, the ingredients are chemical elements.
And Number 5: All minerals have a crystalline atomic structure, which is a repeating, orderly pattern that is formed by those chemicals that we mentioned in the last point.
As of January 2022, There are 5,780 different materials that meet these criteria, as determined by the International Mineralogical Association, or IMA. But wait, what about rocks? Are rocks and minerals the same thing? Rocks are like minerals in several ways. They are solid and they are made by nature.
But rocks may contain organic matter that once lived or came from something living. For example, coal is considered a rock, not a mineral, because it comes from the remains of plants that lived a long time ago and were buried underground. Also, rocks are usually combinations of two or more different minerals. For example, granite is a rock which consists of minerals like quartz, feldspar, mica, and others. And finally, rocks do not have a crystalline pattern to their atomic structure.
Now, let’s get back to our tour! If you’re ready we can go inside the museum. As we walk in and look left, you’ll notice the other side of the display window that we viewed from the atrium. This case contains some fan favorites, including watermelon tourmaline and adamite on limonite.
On the top shelf is a large specimen of Amethyst. Many museum visitors are somewhat familiar with this mineral, although many do not know that amethyst is not its own mineral. Amethyst is actually the purple variety of quartz. Speaking of quartz, we have a large, free-standing chunk of quartz right next to the front display window. Do you notice how the shape of the crystals is the same on this piece and the amethyst that we just saw?
Moving on around the wall, the next display window is the Minerals of Africa case. The Minerals of Africa case debuted in 2009 during Black History Month & features carvings of the mineral verdite. The following statement is from former museum director Bob Coller, who managed the museum when this case debuted:
“Verdite is only found in Zimbabwe in Africa. It is illegal to ship this here now. The carvings were done by hand by the natives there. Someone took a great amount of effort to make that man’s face. They took time to make his lips, eyes and hair. This is a terrific piece, and it is heavy. We are going to keep this piece forever, and it gets more valuable every day because the craftsmen are dying off.”
If we turn around, you will see our student employee desk. The museum is proud to employ undergraduate students who are studying either geology or environmental science here at YSU. Visitors are greeted by these students as they enter the museum and can ask them questions about the pieces on display. It is a great experience for the students to be able to practice communicating the knowledge that they are learning in their classes.
And now, we are going to take a look into one of the free-standing display cases in the middle of the museum. This case doesn’t really have a specific theme to it, other than the pieces are large and don’t really fit elsewhere in the museum.
Here is a specimen of malachite, known for its green color. And here is some malachite on quartz. Also in this case are large specimens of selenite…. and smokey quartz. These little spheres are made of sand which have become cemented together. And here we have an amethyst geode, which I will shine a flashlight into.
Moving on, I want to show you some gemstones and cabochons. With a few exceptions (such as opals and pearls), most gemstones are minerals. The minerals that you see here have been faceted, which means that flat surfaces called “faces” have been cut into them in various geometric patterns. There are different ways to cut facets into a mineral, depending on how you want to enhance the gemstone.
Here are some examples of different facets on the same mineral. Before the mineral is faceted, it may not look like anything special. Here we have examples of minerals both with and without facets.
Back in our storage area is an unfaceted piece of the mineral beryl. Have you heard of beryl before? What about aquamarine or emerald? As it turns out, aquamarine is blue beryl and emerald is green beryl. Back in the display case there are more examples of gemstone names that differ from their mineral name.
What about multicolored gemstones? Here we have amethyst, or purple quartz, on the left and citrine, or yellow quartz, on the right. In the middle is a combination of both, called ametrine. How can this happen? Mineral crystals take a long time to grow, during which time the surrounding temperatures, pressures, and/or elements present within the environment may change. This can result in color combinations within the mineral, called compositional zoning. Another example of compositional zoning is watermelon tourmaline, which has pink and green zones.
Hard minerals, like diamond, make the best gemstones. But did you know some minerals are very soft? To show you what I mean, I am holding a mineral in the museum’s storage area which is so soft, I can write with it on paper. When I drag the mineral across the paper, I am actually creating a little trail of powder that came off the mineral due to its softness. A hard mineral like diamond would just tear the paper. A mineral’s hardness has a lot to do with what humans can use it for. For example, hard diamonds can be used to make drill bits. And this soft mineral, called graphite, is actually what can be found inside pencils!
Sometimes minerals which are not quite hard enough to make good gemstones, will still make good cabochons. Cabs, as they can be called, are tumbled, cut and polished pieces, as seen in this display case. Another key difference between gemstones and cabochons is that gemstones are typically transparent, allowing light to shine through the mineral, while cabochons reflect light only from the surface of the mineral.
The next stop on our tour is the silica case. Silica is a combination of two elements: silicon and oxygen, with a formula of SiO2. Silica is very common, in fact silica makes up just over a quarter of the Earth’s crust. Silicate minerals are in many rocks, including granite and sandstone. Silica is found in many other materials, like glass, ceramics, beach sand, and concrete to name a few. But those are not minerals because the silica is not in a crystalline form. Opals, for example, have the formula SiO2. But they do not have the crystalline atomic structure that is a part of the definition of a mineral. Examples of crystalline silica include quartz and all its forms, some of which are amethyst, citrine, chalcedony, agate, jasper, onyx, smokey quartz, milky quartz, rose quartz, aventurine, tiger’s eye, rutilated quartz, carnelian, and blue quartz.
Like silica, calcite is very common. Calcite is composed of three elements: calcium, carbon, and oxygen, with a formula of CaCO3. Calcite is in rocks such as marble and limestone. It is also found in many living things, such as the shells of marine organisms and even in bird eggshells. As a mineral, calcite can crystallize into many interesting shapes, as shown in this display case. These shapes are given descriptive nicknames, such as cathedral, pine cone, cactus, dogtooth, brush, and poker chip.
Sometimes, calcite can be very clear and transparent, which makes it very useful, particularly in optical applications. Such pieces, sometimes called optical calcite or Iceland spar, are interesting because they show double refraction, which to us looks like a double image. Here in the museum’s backroom, I’ve got a piece of optical calcite that I am holding over one of the museum’s brochures. Do you notice the double images? Even from the side of the specimen, the double refraction is apparent. When the optical calcite is rotated around over top of the letter Y, what do you see? Do you notice how it looks like one Y is circling over a second Y? For comparison, I wanted to show you a sample of transparent quartz. Notice how there is no double image. Quarts also has optical applications.
And on the note of minerals and optical properties, I wanted to talk about this one as well, just for fun. This is the mineral ulexite, nicknamed TV stone or TV rock. This mineral occurs in parallel fibers; these fibers can reflect light along one axis. So when you place the mineral adjacent to something it appears to transmit the image through like a television. But when you turn the mineral to another side, you can no longer see through it.
And now back to the calcite case. Here we’ve got more examples of the many different crystal shapes that calcite can have. Another point worth mentioning is that calcite, like many other minerals, can form in a variety of different colors, as I’m sure you’ve noticed. For this reason, and in most cases, color is not usually a good property to use when trying to identify minerals. So how can one tell minerals apart? Modern technology allows geologists to use special microscopes and do lab tests to make determinations, but there are also some informal “field tests” that can be used. In the case of calcite, a quick acid test can be used to identify it.
In the museum’s back room, I’ve got a piece of calcite and a dropper with dilute hydrochloric acid. Notice how the acid reacts with the calcite to cause effervescence, or bubbling, as carbon dioxide gas is released. In the real world, rainwater is slightly acidic. When combined with calcite, this what leads to things like the formation of caves underground and the deterioration of marble tombstones.
Our next display case focuses on the beauty of mineral colors. As we just discussed with calcite, color is not necessarily a good indicator for the purposes of mineral identification. For example, here are two very different minerals that just so happen to both be purple: amethyst and fluorite. But for most of us, color is usually the first thing that we notice about a mineral. And some minerals are known for having a relatively consistent color. Sulfur, for example, almost always is a bright yellow color. This mineral’s name comes from the same root as celestial, because of the heavenly blue color it usually has. Here are some other blue minerals.
Next up, let’s talk about ore minerals. Beyond their beauty in the display cases, minerals are also natural resources with many human uses. You’ve probably already used several products that came from minerals since you’ve woken up this morning. Did you drink coffee out of a ceramic mug? Did you scroll on your phone before getting out of bed? Did you brush your teeth with fluoridated toothpaste? Did you eat a breakfast that had any salt in it? The list goes on and on. The word “ore” specifically, refers to a solid material that contains a valuable mineral or metal. Ores must be mined from the Earth and then the desired mineral or metal must be extracted for human use. In the museum’s backroom I have another example, this is bauxite which is an aluminum ore.
A systematic mineralogy display showcases different classes of minerals. With the 352 species that were known in the mid 1800s, scientist James Dwight Dana created a system which organized all minerals by their major chemical component into 9 classes: native elements, sulfides, sulfates, halides, oxides, carbonates, phosphates, silicates, and organic minerals.
To give you an example of a mineral class, let’s examine the sulfides. Sulfide minerals all contain sulfur in their chemical formula. Some sulfides on display are: stibnite, molybdenite, galena, realgar & orpiment, sphalerite, chalcopyrite, and the very popular pyrite or fool’s gold.
Did you know pyrite is called fool’s gold because it can have a very similar brassy appearance? However, pyrite is a separate mineral. How can one tell the difference? First, gold is much softer than pyrite (ever seen a prospector bite into something?), and second, pyrite leaves a black streak on a ceramic tile while gold will leave a more yellow streak.
Back to the systematic mineralogy display…
With the discovery of new mineral species and advanced technology to decipher differences between species, scientists now recognize 78 different classes of minerals. Our museum, like many other geological displays, still choose to showcase minerals using Dana’s original classes for simplicity reasons and because it still offers a good visual representation of groupings of minerals with similar compositions.
Next is a display case that showcases some minerals of Brazil. So why do these Brazil minerals get their own display case? Brazil is a mineralogically interesting and important country, so it follows that several of the museum’s pieces are from Brazil. Historically, mining in Brazil dates back very far; Brazil even had its own “gold rush” in the 1600s and a “diamond rush” in the 1700s. Today, the mining industry in Brazil is still huge, as Brazil produces many economically important metals such as iron, copper, and gold. Brazil is also known for its gemstones, being the world’s largest producer of amethyst, topaz, and agate. Other notable gemstones mined from Brazil are tourmaline, emerald, aquamarine, garnet, and opal.
Moving on to another mineralogically significant country: Mexico. Like with Brazil, mining in Mexico dates back very far, supposedly even to prehistoric times. In fact, the mining of silver and gold played an important role in shaping the history of Mexico. Think about Montezuma and Cortez. Even today, Mexico remains the world’s leading producer of silver while also providing other economically important minerals such as fluorite, gold, zinc, copper, and graphite. Red and orange Fire opals are considered the country’s national gemstone due to the quality and quantity of deposits found in Mexico. Along with Brazil and The united states, Mexico is one of the top suppliers of collectable minerals.
And now, let’s check out some Ohio Minerals. The Clarence R. Smith Mineral Museum is located in Youngstown Ohio, and so it seemed appropriate to showcase a few of the over 50 minerals that can be found in the Buckeye state. According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, the minerals which are the most common in Ohio include calcite, celestite, and quartz. On a rare occasion, diamonds have been found in Ohio, although they did not form here (they likely hitchhiked in glaciers traveling across the state). Ohio even has a state gemstone – flint, which is a cryptocrystalline form of quartz and is technically a sedimentary rock.
Have you ever heard of planetary geology before? Historically, geology was defined as the study of Earth but with the discovery of extra-terrestrial rocky items, such as planets, moons, asteroids, comets, and meteorites, the need arose for a planetary branch of geology.
It is especially appropriate for our museum to have a planetary display because our campus neighbor is the Ward Beecher Planetarium. If you are ever planning a visit to the mineral museum, we highly suggest trying to also stop in for a free showing of one of the planetarium’s many public shows.
In the museum’s display, you can view real meteorites. Meteorite is the name given to meteors (which are relatively small, solid rocks) that have passed through earth’s atmosphere and crashed into the ground. FYI, these little rocks are called meteors if they burn up while passing through Earth’s atmosphere and never hit the Earth’s surface. Meteorites are classified as either stony or iron, or a mixture of both. Meteorites with iron are typically very dense and contain magnetic elements. These magnetic elements can help separate meteorite grains from sand grains.
Interestingly, unique pieces called tektites can sometimes be found after a meteorite strikes the ground. These tektites form as a result of the rapid heating & cooling of the material around the meteorite impact site and are usually green to black in color.
And now let’s explore geology and medicine. This display was a collaboration effort between the mineral museum and another on-campus museum, the Melnick Medical Museum, which has many displays about the history of medicine. Inspired by a publication about the history of geology and medicine, this display case describes ways in which people used readily available materials from the Earth for medical remedies, and how the evolution of the scientific process has granted modern medicine the ability to enhance or, in many cases, abandon these geological treatments.
For example, the mineral stibnite is an important source of antimony. As it was used for gold purification, people believed that antimony could also be used to remove impurities from the human body. Therefore, antimony was administered to induce vomiting in sick patients typically by either drinking wine that had sat in an antimony cup or by taking a pill made of antimony. Both the cup and pill were notably reusable, as the pill would often be retrieved, washed, and saved for later use. However, antimony is a highly toxic substance with many side effects including death, and the regular ingestion of antimony ceased by the late 1800s. Interestingly, antimony still appears today in an approved medical treatment for leishmaniasis called Pentostam.
Another example is the mineral fluorite, which is a source of the fluoride that is found in natural water sources and the fluoride that is added to drinking water, toothpastes, and other dental treatments. As with all things, dosage matters, because historically fluoride was written off as a medical treatment. Early testing of fluoride in its highly concentrated salt form was found to be a digestive irritant. Later scientific analysis demonstrated the benefits of proper fluoridation and, in 1955, Crest became the first toothpaste to include fluoride. Today, the American Dental Association still supports the use of fluoride to combat tooth decay.
And on to our fossil collection! While we look at some of the petrified wood on display, let’s briefly talk about WHY there are fossils in a mineral museum. Here you see slices of trees that died a long time ago and were in just the right conditions to be turned into stone. The different colors represent different minerals that took the place of the original wood material, leaving behind a beautiful, hard, heavy, and often colorful exact replica of the original tree.
Fossils, rocks, & minerals go hand in hand. Like with the petrified wood, many fossils are plant or animal remains that have undergone a process in which the remains have been replaced by minerals. Here, we have a slab of rock containing fossils of crinoids. Crinoids are animals related to star fish, although they are nick-named sea lilies due to their plant-like shape. The crinoid stalk, which they used to anchor themselves to the sea floor, resembles a stack of buttons and is a common fossil to find. Crinoids are not extinct, however, and can be found in the ocean to this day.
Certain plant and animal parts are more likely to become fossilized than others. Specifically, the ‘hard’ parts of an animal, like teeth, bones, and shells, are more often found as fossils today than ‘soft’ parts like skin or other organs.
Sometimes, it is not the actual plant or animal that is fossilized, but a mark or a track that they made instead. This coprolite, or fossilized feces, can actually tell us a lot about the animal that left it behind. Check out some more of the fossils currently on display!
Before going into the fluorescent display, you will notice a large tusk mounted on the wall. A closer examination will reveal that the tusk is actually been turned into a work of art, with carved animals throughout.
On to our last display case of this tour: fluorescent minerals. Coming around the wall which had the mounted tusk, you will notice a display case that might not seem too interesting right off the bat. However, by moving the light switch (featuring YSU’s mascot, Pete the Penguin), you can activate the ultraviolet (or UV) lights that are in the ceiling of the display case. In doing so, you will see the phenomenon known as fluorescence, which makes the minerals appear to glow in the dark!
Only about 15% of minerals will fluoresce under UV light, and fluorescent responses can be highly variable from one specimen to another. Therefore, fluorescence is not typically considered a reliable factor when doing mineral identifications. But it’s still very fun to watch!
Information gained by studying fluorescence in nature, from minerals to scorpions to the aurora borealis, has paved the way for technological applications in fields as diverse as entertainment, agriculture, forensics, medicine, engineering, and more!
Many museum visitors ask, what causes fluorescence? In short, most fluorescence is caused by impurities that get trapped inside a mineral’s crystal structure as it forms. These impurities affect the way that the mineral releases the energy it absorbs from the UV light. To our eyes, the effect is a glow.
You’ve probably heard of UV rays before. It’s common knowledge that UV rays also come from the sun and can cause damage to our skin and eyes if we don’t take the necessary precautions like using sunscreen and sunglasses. So, if you were to hold a fluorescent mineral outside on a sunny day, why wouldn’t you see it glowing in response to the sun’s UV light? The answer is because visible light (which also comes from the sun) makes it hard to see fluorescence. That is why this display case is behind a wall – so it can be kept dark for optimal viewing. Check out the dampening of the fluorescent effect when I shine a flashlight through the display glass. But here’s another question for you – if I can shine visible light through the display glass, can UV light come through the glass and cause harm to me standing next to the display? The answer is no – the display glass was specially ordered and is similar to most car windshields which allow visible light to pass through but block UV rays.
One other thing I want to show you in this case is another phenomenon which is called phosphorescence. Some fluorescent minerals have phosphorescence, which means that they take longer to release the absorbed UV energy. Watch when I turn the UV light off. Did you notice any pieces that glowed longer than the rest? I’ll show it to you again, giving you views from visible light to darkness, and then UV light to darkness.
In the museum’s backroom, there are additional fluorescent minerals in storage. Here, I am moving a hand-held short wave uv lamp over several specimens. Here is a piece under regular light. But this piece also phosphoresces. Let’s take a look at how long it takes for the glow to fade when UV light is removed. For comparison, here are the fluorescent minerals I showed you initially, quickly stopping their glow once the UV light is switched off.
And that completes your virtual tour of the Clarence R. Smith Mineral Museum! I hope you had a good time. Maybe you can come visit in person sometime! Before you go, I wanted to give you a quick teaser of the museum’s backroom storage areas. The museum displays are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the museum’s collection. There are thousands upon thousands of geological pieces in our storage collection. Periodically, we will update the displays in the museum so that new pieces can be viewed. All the more reason to stop by and check us out!
So thank you so much for your visit! To learn more about the museum, please check out our website, minerals.ysu.edu. You can also follow us on Facebook, @CRSMineralMuseum.