There is a new mineral museum in Canada! The Bancroft Gem and Mineral Club Mineral Museum (Mineral Museum) is located in Bancroft, Ontario. Bancroft is in the centre of a unique geological environment that has resulted in many interesting mineral deposits, some of which were developed into mines or exploration projects. Some were never developed but remained places to collect unique minerals. The great new museum that opened in late July, 2013, right in the middle of Bancroft, reflects the mineralogical diversity of the area and celebrates its mining and mineral exploration history. It is just 2.5 hours or so from Toronto.
For many years, there was a large display of minerals, owned by the Gem and Mineral Club of Bancroft, housed in an annex of the local Chamber of Commerce. Unfortunately, parts of the old Railway Station that housed the Chamber became decrepit and the old building was eventually condemned. The Club was forced to move their minerals out of the old building until a satisfactory new home could be located and for several years there was no mineral display in Bancroft. That was a shame considering the legacy of mining and mineral collecting in the area.
The members of the Gem and Mineral Club of Bancroft, led by Frank and Wendy Melanson, in concert with The Bancroft and District Chamber of Commerce, decided to raise money to actually refurbish, revitalize and enlarge the old Railway station so that it, again, could be home to a fine display of regional mineral specimens. The effort was multi pronged because the club raised the necessary money in many different ways including bake sales, auctions, donation solicitations, government grants and grants from private individuals and foundations. Over several years, Frank, Wendy and other volunteers navigated the gauntlet of governments, town councils, building inspectors, accountants, contractors and other necessary entities that make such an undertaking frustrating much of the time.
There are some great permanent and temporary displays in the new Mineral Museum. When you enter the Museum, the first exhibit that you encounter in the hallway is one of very large crystals from the area. One of the more interesting displays is one showing minerals samples from a 150 km radius of Bancroft with a backdrop consisting of a well-labeled geological map of that area. As well, there are several cases that contain suits of minerals from the various geographical areas around Bancroft. For instance, one case has excellent mineral specimens from South of Bancroft, which includes the Marmora and Madoc areas. Another shows mineral specimens from the area West of Bancroft which includes the Tory Hill, Gooderham, Wilberforce and Minden areas. There are several others. These cases do not just show ordinary chunks of rock from these areas! They all contain excellent mineral specimens that have been accumulated by the Bancroft Gem and Mineral Club over the years as donations from members and friends or that were acquired by the Club for display.
To commemorate the mining history of the area, a mining “diorama” has been erected in the Mineral Museum and it features a life-sized miner operating a jackleg drill in a simulated, realistic underground mining environment. Authentic mining equipment salvaged from local mines is used in the diorama.
As well, there is a wonderful display of fluorescent minerals that reveals the fluorescent characteristics of some minerals when they are exposed to ultraviolet light.
In addition to the permanent exhibits, two dedicated collectors and members of the Bancroft Club have loaned parts of their collections as temporary exhibits. One is a very fine collection of Canadian Gemstones, on loan from Robert and Brenda Beckett , of Whitchurch-Stouffville, while the other is an excellent exhibit of Ontario mineral specimens on loan from George Thompson of Stirling, Ontario.
Wendy Melanson is the curator of the Bancroft Mineral and Mining Museum and is working hard to maintain and upgrade the exhibits. She is constantly on the lookout for unusual specimens to upgrade or improve the exhibits. Of course, donations to the museum are still welcome and will be used to maintain and improve the exhibits. As well, Wendy welcomes visits by various universities, clubs, public schools or other groups that wish to visit the museum. You can contact her at 1-888-443-9999 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are also two annual Gem and Mineral Shows held in Bancroft, that usually happen at the end of July. The Bancroft Rockhound Gemboree happens during the July-August long weekend, an Ontario civic holiday. This show features many dealers selling gems, minerals, beads, cutting rough, swap tables organized field trips, and many activities for children. The other show is a one day show organized by the Bancroft Gem and Mineral Club which happens on the Sunday before the Gemboree. It features, mostly, local collectors and dealers selling rock and mineral specimens. Both shows are fun and well worth-while for the serious mineral collector to visit.
So, now, there is another good reason to visit the Bancroft area besides the great mineral collecting –the Bancroft Mineral and Mining Museum! I’m sure that it will be a strong draw for mineral collectors of all levels for many years.