The incredible collections you’ll find here at the museum are mostly the personal property of Ben E. Clement himself. It’s the culmination of over 60 years’ work in the mines of Crittenden County and features unique geological pieces you won’t find anywhere else in the world.
Throughout his decades in the region, Ben E. Clement collected more than just the thousands of specimens visitors flock to the museum to catch a glimpse. He also kept mining tools and equipment, artifacts, correspondences, photographs and so much more, each telling a piece of a much larger story of our region and a significant chapter in American History.
Here are the original collections featured in the Mineral Museum:
The Mineral Collection:
The Ben E. Clement Mineral Collection is comprised of a variety of specimens of exquisite beauty from throughout the world. Thousands of the minerals housed in the museum are from the mines of the famous Southern Illinois – Western Kentucky Fluorspar Region, the very region you will be visiting.
The thousands of mineral specimens range in size from a fraction of an ounce to hundreds of pounds. Each specimen is a “rare accidental find” from among regular ore bodies.
The museum also houses an extensive display of the coal plant fossil Lepidodendron, as well as samples of petrified wood.
One of our biggest attractions is a massive collection of fluorescent specimens, displayed beneath ultraviolet lights, which showcase a variety of colors that truly dazzle the eye.
There are two different collections of gemstone carvings within the museum. One consists of over 40 carvings and 80 faceted fluorite pieces in a range of colors. These were left by a German family dynasty. The other collection consists of carvings made by a local night watchman, Squire Riley, during the early years of this century.
The Clement Mineral Collection is a world-class collection that can never be duplicated.
The Equipment Collection:
The Ben E. Clement Equipment Collection chronicles the companies, and the men, who produced the machines needed to meet the exacting demands of a global industry.
In addition to industrially manufactured equipment, the collection also contains items that were handmade by local craftsmen. Most made for specific mining needs during the Depression.
This collection consists of fluorspar mining and milling artifacts manufactured prior to 1950. The collection preserves and displays equipment ranging in size from the flints of carbide mining lamps, to a 9-foot-wide flywheel that powered a mill, to a 12,000 pound steam engine.
The Equipment Collection also contains kerosene engines, ore buckets, push-carts on rails, early ultraviolet lights, Geiger counters, ore and stone crushers, drills, blacksmithing forges, hoists, and many personal equipment items that belonged to the local miners.
The Document Collection:
The Ben E. Clement Document Collection contains information related to the fluorite mining industry. The documents include mining blueprints, maps, contracts, written opinions, abstracts, books, articles, ledgers, ore essays, leases, stock certificates, and letters of correspondence between mine owners, suppliers, geologists, surveyors, authors, bankers, and promoters.
Receipts and checks, photographs and slides, video and audio tapes of miners, drillers, and operators are also included.
The Document Collection systematically lists the location, geology, and history of local mining operations. Where possible, the collection includes samples of the mineral specimens the mines produced, and the current status of the mines.
The Photograph Collection:
The Ben E. Clement Photograph Collection contains hundreds of pictures of mine operations from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. More than a dozen of the photographs from the collection were used by the Illinois and Kentucky Geological Surveys to illustrate their public publications.
The photos in this collection provide “glimpses into the past.” They capture not only the one-man prospect mines, which at one time dotted the local countryside, but also the giant operations of Alcoa, Inland Steel, Ozark Mahoning, and United States Steel.
Some photos reveal extraordinary architectural design, such as the wooden skyscraper of the Cullen Mine Mill, while others show the ravages of winter, with swollen rivers, flooded towns, mills, and mines.
Many pictures detail the enormous effort expended in locating ore, drilling test sites, constructing head frames, sinking shafts, pulling hoists, and building mills.
This historic collection also depicts the hardships of traveling the major highways of the day; model A’s, T’s, and mule teams with loaded wagons are shown mired to their axles. The construction of the new roads of 1926 and 1927 is chronicled, as equipment and rock from the local mines were used for the upgrade.
The Gift Shop:
Our gift shop has an incredible collection of local specimens and district fluorite for sale. We also feature crystal specimens from other collectors and vendors from around the country, making our gift shop a great resource for crystal collectors and rock hounds of all ages and interests.
Our gift shop is so well stocked, many visitors think it’s part of the exhibit!
Whether you are a collector won’t matter; you are destined to find something of interest you’ll take home from the gift shop!