Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Bob Campbell Geology Museum at Clemson

It was the Bob Campbell Geology Museum that brought us out to Clemson this time (our previous visit having been the 9th annual Upstate Farm Tour and the Clemson University Student Organic Farm). It was a hot and sunny day, the type of weather perfect for the succulents and plants in the Chihuahuan Garden. This high-altitude desert collection contains about 300 species of cactus and other species from Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts. Accustomed to the cold temperatures of winters in these deserts, the cacti can survive the winters here in the Upstate.

The garden in the courtyard directly in front of the geology museum is the Lawrence A. Sutherland Family Garden. The Sutherland garden has a diverse planting of trees, shrubs and perennials, in addition to rocks and mineral specimens, mining artifacts and mill stones. Try explaining to a group of 3-6 year olds that the old mining apparatus is not playground equipment, that they cannot add to their rock collection via the crystals and ores found trailside, and that rocks should not be flipped in search of wildlife. Luckily a sand-sifting station (as might be found on an excavation) is located at the door of the museum to busy little hands, and soon we had regrouped and were ready to enter the museum.

What started as a small collection managed by Mrs. Betty Newton of the geology department at Clemson University grew over the years, and thanks to Mr. Robert S. "Bob" Campbell and his wife Betsy, the museum was built in 1998 to house all the gems, minerals, fossils and like that had accumulated over the years.  Home to a remarkable collection of over 10,000 rocks, minerals, fossils, lapidary objects (carvings, gemstones), and artifacts (mining equipment, Native American tools), I could have easily spent hours there; however with the three boys in tow our visit was a bit briefer.

Photo credit to Heidi Johnson

Upon entering we were greeted by the life-sized skeletal replica of the ferocious saber-toothed cat Smilodon that once roamed this state, affectionately nicknamed Clemson’s “oldest tiger.” However the group rather quickly dispersed in all directions to complete the scavenger hunt that had them exploring the samples on various touch tables and searching for certain specimens within the museum.

The Fluorescent Mineral Room has one of the region's largest displays of fluorescent minerals. We stepped inside and closed the door, to the delight of kids and adults alike!

The gemstone collection is impressive, with over 2000 sparkling gemstones to admire and covet. Geodes of every size and color rounded out the display, with a giant amethyst geode weighing 450 pounds impressing even the boys.

The boys each received a small mineral to take home as a souvenir for completing the scavenger hunt, and we descended back through the cactus garden to the picnic tables below for a well-earned snack. The Museum is located within the Clemson Botanical Gardens, and as we had already come all this way we couldn’t pass up the opportunity for more exploration. Heading back towards the entrance we parked once more, passing a few hours traversing the gardens; however, with close to 300 acres to explore, we really haven’t even scraped the surface yet of this superb botanical, historical and educational resource right here in the Upstate – we will be back.

Photo credit to Heidi Johnson

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