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Rice Northwest Museum of Rock and Minerals

Last Updated: 18th Dec 2014

By Jake Harper

October 12th, 2013



Introduction
Considered "the finest rock and mineral museum in the Pacific Northwest" the Rice museum is an absolute must-see for anyone interested in rocks and minerals when visiting Oregon and Washington. Being displayed in the Rice's own ranch style home, the collection is quite remarkable for both its size and richness in Pacific Northwest specimens and also includes one of our nation's finest exhibits of petrified wood.

Rice Northwest Museum of Rocks and Minerals


My crazy job has me back and forth - east coast to west coast practically weekly these days and when we found ourselves in Portland, Oregon with a free day, we just had to pay another visit to the Rice museum! Though it is our 3rd time in as many years, every visit is better than the last, as favorite pieces can be located and studied with little effort and new things are always discovered. If you are a mineral enthusiast - try not to miss this one as there are some really fantastic rocks here and you are guaranteed not only to see the best of the northwest, but come away with a greater knowledge of what this region produces. Now, if you actually personally collect Pacific Northwest minerals then it ought to be a mineralogical requirement for you to visit! Highlights of the Rice museum are many and I will do my best to describe them in their various sections:

Meteorite Display:
Prepared by the Portland State University, this meteorite exhibit is rich in detailed educational displays and equally rich in excellent specimens! A large, lustrous Gibeon meteorite loaded with deep regmaglypts serves as a "touching rock" and invites the visitor to experience the cold chill of real space metal!

Synthetics, Uses and Curiosities Gallery:
Several brightly lit display cases line the walls in this room that contain everything from large and Beautifully grown synthetic crystals to teaching exhibits on why we reproduce minerals, the uses of minerals, and how minerals affect our daily lives.

Lapidary Arts Gallery:
What first catches your eye when entering this room are the stately antique wood cabinets lining the walls. However, once you focus into the contents - wow! One glowing, highly detailed chinese carving after the other of various materials, onyx, fluorite jade etc...all meticulously crafted. No tourist junk here! The two giant (over 3') jade and fluorite vases are lapidary marvels when studied up close, as they are clearly one piece works and display loads of intricate detail that are a real treat to study. There is also a singular work in this room shown in its own case (and justly so) called "The Aurora Borealis ". It is a mountain landscape carving that is rendered in 5" long precious opal with contra luz "fire" lighting up the sky above the mountain - breathtaking!

Fluorescent Display:
This display is super! Specimens are strongly lit in both both shortwave and long-wave and there are some killer Franklin pieces here! It is well worth spending several repetitions of lights on/off enjoying the various species that are represented.

Agate Gallery:
Another brightly lit room that contains a large exhibit of agates from many of our favorite agate localities. All of these specimens are beautifully prepared and meticulously labeled. There is a full case of bright red/orange Condor agate in large nodule halves, dozens of old classic Mexican Lagunas, including some very fine aragonite pseudomorph pieces(!) and the Brazilian agates section features a choice grouping of insane, sharp angular polyhedroids that any agate collector would drool over.

Synthetics, Uses and Curiosities Gallery
Rice agate display
Rice Agate Display
Rice Agate Display
Synthetics, Uses and Curiosities Gallery
Rice agate display
Rice Agate Display
Rice Agate Display
Synthetics, Uses and Curiosities Gallery
Rice agate display
Rice Agate Display
Rice Agate Display


Main Gallery
OK, first of all I always find it hard to get to the main mineral gallery. Certainly not because it's difficult to find, but because of the mind-blowing, top quality fossil wood slabs displayed on the walls into the gallery! They are quite captivating and demand to be examined as they are absolutely choice specimens and HUGE as well. Once you get past them and recover, it becomes sensory overload in the main mineral gallery. Crystals and color are everywhere you look in this room. And then when your eyes focus in, you see that quality is everywhere as well. Once ensnared by this, the visitor is naturally drawn to the left back cases where the mineral display begins. Superb specimens of both U.S. and worldwide minerals are well represented here in top quality. A really neat addition to the exhibit was that every U.S. specimen in this display had a small american flag next to it. This is a really nice touch that I used to help locate my favorite U.S locality pieces. The Rice's truly specialized in their countries rich mineral heritage as there were many flags present. My best picks began with a huge Glove mine wulfenite plate around 12" square and a large specimen of benitoite with amazingly dense crystal coverage. Of coarse, worldwide minerals were everywhere as well. A 15 cm Ojuela lagrandite crystal vug, a giant deep green field of french pyromorphite and an amazing bolivian amethyst are three of my favorites. A sharp, doubly terminated 10 cm Cassiderite crystal from China caught my eye as well, but then around the corner gem crystals started showing themselves. Tourmalines, beryls, kunzites, garnets and more. A real killer piece found in this section is the extremely fine gem emerald group that was featured on the cover of 1994 Mineralogical Record volume 25, number 3. It is an exuisite 8 cm specimen of emerald crystals in an aesthetic chain on a matrix of calcite from Columbia. Satellite cases here in the main gallery contain mineralogical marvels that you would expect to see in our nations finest museums:

The Alma Rose: This is the Rice's signature specimen. At over 45 cm tall the rose consists of lustrous deep red rhodochrosite rhombs to 4" on a plate of quartz crystals and tetrahedrite with a sprinkling of calcite on the crystal surfaces. This piece is considered by some to be one of the finest three rhodos' in existence.

Gold case: The case is large, black lined and very well lit. is packed with fine crystallized gold, many of them from the F. John Barlow collection and many from Washington state!

Killer Glove mine Wulfenite!
Large Crocoite with Dundasite
Killer azurites from the Rice Museum!
The Alma Rose
Killer Glove mine Wulfenite!
Large Crocoite with Dundasite
Killer azurites from the Rice Museum!
The Alma Rose
Killer Glove mine Wulfenite!
Large Crocoite with Dundasite
Killer azurites from the Rice Museum!
The Alma Rose
Beryl and Tourmaline
Killer emerald specimen!
Gold case at in the main gallery
Gypsum specimen in the main gallery
Beryl and Tourmaline
Killer emerald specimen!
Gold case at in the main gallery
Gypsum specimen in the main gallery
Beryl and Tourmaline
Killer emerald specimen!
Gold case at in the main gallery
Gypsum specimen in the main gallery







Petrified Wood Gallery
Down in the basement and next door to the main gallery you will find a large, clean open room lined with craftsman style display cases from floor to ceiling which march all the way around the entire room. It is these cases that hold what many believe to be the finest and largest public display of petrified wood anywhere. I repeat here what the Rice's website says about the collection: "This astonishing petrified wood collection contains over 460 worldwide specimens collected over 40 years and never before displayed. The variety of colors, species and localities make this among the nation's finest exhibits of petrified wood". This is no exaggeration to say the least, for everywhere you look there is top quality fossil wood. Brightly colored Arizona, Utah pieces, rare and beautiful cycads (including a 3' root mass!), giant Mcdermitt limbs, Blue Forest, Tuscarora, Cherry Creek, Sweet Home, Hubbard Basin, Hampton Butte - all are here and all are choice, well prepared specimens that would make even the most jaded wood collector envious.



Near the center of the room there is a carpeted pedestal that holds a tremendous log of Stinking water oak. The piece measures approx. 4' long by say 30" high and is expertly prepared. For those unfamiliar with the locality Stinking Water pass is in Harney Co., Oregon and is one of those classic, worked out localities that rarely produces anymore, which make this particular piece noteworthy. Across from the log, in its own separate case, there is a large Blue Forest petrified wood specimen that is incredible, as it consists of several long limbs, the limbs being completely covered in botryoidal blue chalcedony and entombed within an open tube of stromatolitic algae. If you are familiar with Blue forest material you will quickly recognize this piece as a real feat of preparation for the fact that it is both extremely fragile AND heavy!
Rice Petrified Wood Exhibit
Rice Petrified Wood Exhibit
Rice Petrified Wood Exhibit
Rice Petrified Wood Exhibit
Rice Petrified Wood Exhibit
Rice Petrified Wood Exhibit
Rice Petrified Wood Exhibit
Rice Petrified Wood Exhibit
Rice Petrified Wood Exhibit
Rice Petrified Wood Exhibit
Rice Petrified Wood Exhibit
Rice Petrified Wood Exhibit
A whopper cycad!
A whopper Stinking Water log!
Hampton Butte 4 footer?
Another GIANT cycad!
A whopper cycad!
A whopper Stinking Water log!
Hampton Butte 4 footer?
Another GIANT cycad!
A whopper cycad!
A whopper Stinking Water log!
Hampton Butte 4 footer?
Another GIANT cycad!







The Northwest Mineral Gallery:
Being housed in a separate building devoted exclusively to the northwest, this large, well lit gallery features the Rudy Tschernich collection of zeolite minerals - and what an amazing collection it is. Obscure Oregon/Washington/Idaho zeolite localities are very abundant and it is a real eye opener to see such choice, high quality specimens of zeolites coming from our northwest states! Sure, Indian zeolites are here too of coarse, from large flashy crystal groups to an entire pocket reconstruction featuring large divergent sprays of scolecite crystals jutting out at all angles. Dozens of large locality/collecting photos line the tops of the zeolite display cases which adds a really personal touch to the entire exhibit.

OK, Denny Mountain amethyst scepters? Spruce claim quartz with pyrite? Daybreak autunite? Prince of Wales epidote? Rat's Nest Huelandite? Sawtooth Range pegmatite goodies? Bunker Hill Pyromorphite? If your a fan of northwest U.S. minerals this display has got them - and boy are they good! In addition to the Tschernich zeolite exhibit the Rice NW gallery contains a general collection of NW minerals that are truly breathtaking. For instance, what some consider to be the finest known Epidote specimen from Prince of Wales Island, Alaska. It consists of a large plate of crystals to 4"(!) with quartz and two large calcite crystals. I must confess to Lara O'Dwyer-Brown, curator of the museum, that I left a bunch of nose prints on the glass in front of that specimen that will need some windex.....sure its nothing new and probably a daily occurrence...right? This gallery also features several displays of fine local northwest agates, fossil woods, chalcedony and "thunder eggs", all of excellent quality and all beautifully prepared. The thunder egg display has dozens upon dozens of choice polished specimens and includes easily understood charts and diagrams explaining the genesis of thunder egg and Lithophysae formation. Oh, and don't forget to fondle that giant spherical thunder egg "touching rock" at the center of the display - wow!!





Conclusion:
I have to admit that I am biased and that I have developed a real love for this place and this collection, as it reflects the very best of my own collecting passions: minerals, agates and fossil woods. This museums displays are meticulously neat and clean, extremely well labeled and lighting is everywhere and in all the right places. The cases and displays are at low levels throughout the museum, thus generously accommodating those most precious treasures - our future mineralogists/geologists/collectors! You can tell that the people who work at the Rice museum really care about the specimens and the way that they are displayed as it shows everywhere you look. Spotless cases, perfectly aligned specimens and labeling, not a burned out bulb in the entire place and I would eat my lunch off that floor. The Rice museum is a top class mineralogical experience and I can guarantee that you will come away satisfied after your visit here.

It is my opinion that the Rice museum is one of the great collections of these United States and the remarkable exhibits of not only fine northwest and worldwide minerals - but high quality polished agate specimens, fine lapidary objects and a world renowned fossil wood collection speaks volumes about our nation's western "rockhound" period heritage. The Rice's were " rockhound connoisseurs" and their museum reflects this over and over again, everywhere you look -- and it is a real treat to behold. OK, so It is well known that nobody cares for the label "rockhound" anymore. But in truth, the Rice's were the real embodiment of that label - and after visiting their museum, and viewing these remarkable exhibits, I believe that many opinions of that label might change. What do you think?

Museum Information:
The Rice museum is open to the public Wednesday through Sunday from 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM.
Guided Tour:
Every Saturday starting at 2 pm lasting approximately 90 minutes.
Phone:
503-647-2418
E-Mail:
info@ricenorthwestmuseum.org
Address:
26385 NW Groveland
Drive, Hillsboro, OR 97124




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Comments

Jake, my wife and I visited this museum this past Friday when we were in Portland visiting my brother for Thanksgiving. Having visited several world-class museums such as the Smithsonian, I have to say that for its size, this is one of the finest museums that we've ever visited. There are some outstanding specimens in their collection, especially downstairs.

We were also highly impressed with the agate and petrified wood displays, showing all of the different types and explaining the origins.

We absolutely recommend this museum to anyone who is anywhere near it; it's worth going out of your way to see this one!

Thanks for the excellent article.

Robert Miller & Stephanie Thi

Robert Miller
1st Dec 2013 6:07pm
That's super Robert! Yes, the main gallery downstairs is a real treat - please spread the word!

Jake Harper
7th Dec 2013 2:07am

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