Curious to see what I presumed to be the best of its "4,500 mineral specimens from around the world including examples of the more than 350 minerals found in North Carolina," I visited the great Colburn Earth Science Museum in Asheville prior to the excursion to Franklin, NC described in last week's post. It's important for me to have opined the adjective "great" before confessing to being somewhat underwhelmed by some---though not all---of what the museum had on display.
On the other hand, the Colburn offers more than a dozen earth science courses that fulfill the North Carolina Student Course of Study to kids from first to twelfth grades. It holds field trips for thousands of students. An after-school program, the Junior Rockhounds Club, is so popular that two separate sessions are necessary each month to accommodate all the students who sign up. The Colburn also has a week-long summer camp for kids in grades 1-4, the last day of which is spent collecting at a nearby quarry. And each year on Fathers Day weekend,the Colburn holds a three day gem and mineral fest.
Nearly half of the display area consists of cabinets of worldwide minerals categorized according to sulphides, carbonates, oxides, etc. In their place, I would have preferred to see more material from North Carolina, some of which was quite spectacular. The photograph beneath this post's title fails to do the 1445 carat "Star of the Carolina" star sapphire justice. I was also particularly impressed with the large specimen pictured above left of hyalite opal on feldspar from the Chalk Mountain Mine in Yancey County, NC and a similarly sized lazulite on pyrophyllite specimen shown at right from an undisclosed locality in Randolph County.
The Crystal Pocket, as the Colburn's gift shop is named, has a better though somewhat limited selection of minerals at more attractive prices than I'm accustomed to seeing at other museums. I consider my two purchases of herkimer diamonds in matrix and several Mexican topaz thumbnails to be real bargains. A volunteer shared with me that they "go to Tucson" every February. My hunch would be that they purchase by the flat and mark up their costs very little if at all.
The Colburn Gem and Mineral Museum is located in the lower level of the Pack Square Education, Arts and Science Center at 3 Pack Square in Asheville. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday, and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is $4 for adults and $3 for students and seniors.