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Rice Northwest Museum of Rocks and Minerals

rice northwest museum of rocks and minerals, rice northwest museum of rocks and minerals hours
The Rice Northwest Museum of Rocks and Minerals is a non-profit museum in Hillsboro, Oregon, United States Located just north of the Sunset Highway on the northern edge of Hillsboro, the earth science museum is in the Portland metropolitan area Opened in 1997, the museum’s collections date to the 1930s with the museum housed in a home built to display the rock and mineral collections of the museum founders The ranch style home is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the first of its kind listed in Oregon In 2015 the museum became a Smithsonian Affiliate museum

The museum sits on 23 wooded acres 93 ha, with the main building containing 7,500 square feet 700 m2 of space Collections include petrified wood, various fossils, fluorescent minerals, meteorites, zeolites, and a variety of other minerals With more than 20,000 specimens, the museum is the largest of its kind in the Pacific Northwest The facility has around 25,000 visitors each year, many of whom are on school tours


  • 1 History
  • 2 Collections
  • 3 Programs
  • 4 Facilities
  • 5 References
  • 6 External links


Meteorite from the Campo del Cielo field in Argentina Psittacosaurus fossil

Richard L Rice married Helen Hart in 1932 and the couple began rock collecting in 1938 after finding agates along the Oregon Coast12 In 1952 the Rices built a new home north of Hillsboro on 30 acres 121 ha that would later house the museum3 The Rices founded a museum in 1953 to display their collections4 Their collections won them the Woodruff Trophy twice 1958 and 1961 and this award was permanently awarded to Richard and Helen in 19615 Helen served as president of the American Federation of Mineralogical Societies from 1959 to 19606

In 1996 the Rices established the non-profit museum7 Richard and Helen Rice both died in 1997 with the home passing to the non-profit museum as part of their estate17 In 1997 the Rice Northwest Museum of Rocks and Minerals officially opened3 In June 2000, 94 pieces from the F John Barlow collection of crystallized gold were added to the museum8 The facility opened an exhibit in 2001 dedicated to the lapidary arts, and by that time the museum had grown to more than 4,000 items4

The museum opened a new gallery in January 2003 to feature petrified wood9 Rudy W Tschernich was named curator in June 2003, replacing Sharleen Harvey10 In 2004 the Cascadia Meteorite Laboratory at Portland State University loaned the museum 52 meteorites in an exhibit funded by NASA111213 Attendance had grown to around 15,000 in 20047

In 2005 the North America Research Group unearthed the fossilized remains of a thalattosuchian crocodile from the Jurassic period in Central Oregon14 The museum plans on displaying these fossils after they are studied15 Later in 2005, the 1,800-square-foot 170 m2 Northwest Minerals Gallery opened in a former storeroom at the museum after renovations totaling $150,00016

By 2007 the museum received 25,000 visitors each year, mainly from school groups17 In August 2008 the museum opened a retail gift shop in The Streets of Tanasbourne shopping center,18 and closed it in December 2009 due to the economic recession19 This satellite gift shop was to be a temporary endeavor, and was designed in part to help drive traffic to the museum19 By 2010 the museum's collections had grown to more than 20,000 specimens, and still had about 25,000 visitors annually, with about 18,000 coming from school field trips19 Tschernich stepped down as curator in 2011, with Lara O'Dwyer-Brown taking over the position in 201220 Brown left in 2014, with Julian Gray hired as executive director and Leslie Moclock as curator in May 201421


Collections at the museum Specimens in the Northwest Gallery The Rainbow Gallery

The museum is the largest of its kind in the Pacific Northwest with more than 20,000 items6719 The specimens come from around the world, many personally unearthed by the Rices22 Bill Dameron of The Mineralogical Record named the museum as having the best mineral specimens in the Pacific Northwest17 The collections include gemstones, minerals, fossils, meteorites, and some artifacts23

Gemstones include rubies, diamonds, rhodochrosite, opal, emerald, and amethyst among others241723 Fossils include shark teeth, coprolites, or fossilized dung, petrified wood, dinosaur eggs, trilobites, and a baby dinosaur of the Psittacosaurus genus719 One display features all 12 birthstones with a version of each in its natural state and as finished gemstones, along with the same before and after for other gemstones such as aquamarine4 Around 1,000 of the specimens at the museum are only viewable using a microscope2

One gallery, the Rainbow Gallery, is designed to showcase rocks and minerals that have phosphorescent or fluorescent elements that allow them to glow in the dark7 An automated system uses a lighting cycle that includes ultraviolet lights to energize the rocks7 A large portion of the petrified wood comes from the collection of Dennis and Mary Murphy9 Their collection, which is in excess of 450 items and includes a log of white oak weighing 1,200 pounds 544 kg, was combined with the Rice Museum's existing pieces924 The log is from Eastern Oregon and is estimated to have lived more than 15 million years ago719 The petrified wood specimens come from Oregon, Washington, and as far away as Argentina and Australia919 Other fossils include those of cycads, palms, and ferns1

The main rhodochrosite attraction is the "Alma Rose" from the Sweet Home Mine in Colorado17 The Alma Rose includes crystals measuring up to 95 cm in length along with quartz and calcite highlights17 The Rices once owned the complementary "Alma King" rhodochrosite from the same mine, but sold the piece to the Coors Brewing Company, who then donated it to the Denver Natural History Museum1719 The two stones had been purchased by the couple for US$800,00019 Other rhodochrosite specimens include those from mines in Arizona17 The museum also has a collection of 107 gold pieces from the F John Barlow collection featuring items such as a 42 troy ounce 131 kg leaf and pieces mined from the Ace of Diamonds mine in Liberty, Washington1725 One of the museum's pieces, a sperrylite from Russia, is considered one of the finest in the world17

The "Alma Rose" rhodochrosite

Individual items on display include coprolite from Mongolia, a 500-pound 227 kg piece of the lightweight volcanic rock pumice, obsidian and basalt7 One specimen on display is a 30 centimetres 12 in wide plate with clear quartz crystals, epidote crystals measuring as large as 10 cm and translucent calcite scalenohedrons, and comes from Green Monster Mountain on Alaska's Prince of Wales Island26 The collection includes a cycad fossil dating from the Jurassic era that weighs 500 pounds 227 kg6 One meteorite is the Gibeon meteorite which weighs 210 pounds 95 kg and came from the African nation of Namibia67 The world's largest known opal-filled thunderegg, weighing 175 tons 1600 kg, is housed at the museum727 The thunderegg is Oregon's state rock28 Other items include azurite, Oregon sunstone, amber, copper crystals, zeolites, morganite, and agate among others417


The Rice Museum offers a variety of public programs, including hands-on classes for children where participants make necklaces out of rocks23 It hosts an annual summer festival with events such as thunderegg cutting and demonstrations of gold panning2930 The facility has hosted the Northwest Fossil Fest31 The museum offers tours for school groups and other youth programs, often handling multiple groups each day7 Children in the school tours get to select a stone to take home from a pile outside7 The museum is open Wednesday through Sunday


Richard and Helen Rice House
US National Register of Historic Places
Front of the home in 2010
Coordinates 45°34′28″N 122°56′55″W / 4557444°N 12294861°W / 4557444; -12294861
Built 1952
Architect William F Wayman
Architectural style Ranch
NRHP Reference # 0600109632
Added to NRHP November 29, 200632

The museum and grounds are located on the north side of the Sunset Highway west of Portland between the Helvetia Road and Jackson School Road exits33 Situated on 23 acres 93 ha of mostly forested land,22 the museum is housed in the historic Richard and Helen Rice House, built as a single family residence34 Completed in 1952, the home was built of Arizona flagstone on the exterior and wood native to Oregon, including curly maple and myrtlewood73334

William F Wayman designed the structure with Victor Batchelar building the home, while Charles F Walters designed the grounds35 All the wood was logged by Richard Rice, who made his living as a logging contractor1 He also milled the wood7 The home was designed to allow the basement to serve as a museum for the Rices' collections3

The structure contains three sandstone fireplaces, and the countertops are finished with hand-painted tiles from Mexico3 Myrtlewood is used inside as trim and for doors17 Bedroom closets were constructed with drawers, shelves, and ironing boards built-in3 Inside the two-level building are amenities such as dumbwaiters and a sewing room33 On the outside raked cedar was used on the eaves of the low-pitched roof-line building3 The exterior sandstone is tan, rose, and blue in color3

The 7,500 square feet 700 m2 home with a 3,300 square feet 310 m2 basement cost $185,000 to build23 The original wool carpeting is still in use at the home, as is the original linoleum that features the museum's logo of a shovel and a pick3 The ranch style home was the first ranch home listed on the National Register of Historic Places in Oregon34

In addition to the house, which has a full basement, the museum uses a separate building as a gallery17 That building, the Northwest Gallery, was formerly used for storage and as a shop, but looks similar to the Rice House19 This gallery focuses on items from Oregon, Idaho, and Washington, and includes collections of agates, thundereggs, zeolites, and placer gold, among others19

Most of the rocks and minerals are housed in glass cases along the walls in the basement22 Before opening to the public an elevator was added to the home2 The museum includes a lapidary and arts gallery, agate gallery, petrified wood gallery, oddities gallery, crystal gallery, Northwest gallery, and fossil gallery19 There is also an educational room and gift shop, while the outside grounds include a walk that features sandstone, columns of basalt, and a pile of rocks for children to climb over to find stones17 This walk includes a 1,200 pound 540 kg rock made of pumice19


  1. ^ a b c d Harvey, Sharleen K January 1, 1998 "Richard L Rice; 1911–1997" Rocks & Minerals Heldref Publications: 611 ISSN 0035-7529 
  2. ^ a b c d e Colby, Richard N “Tour of time: An open house will make it easy to take in the county’s hidden treasures, historic and otherwise, in one swoop”, The Oregonian, April 23, 1998, West Zoner, p 1
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Mandel, Michelle “House of rock”, The Oregonian, March 1, 2007, Metro West Neighbors, p 12
  4. ^ a b c d e Campbell, Polly “Family museum on foundation of rock”, The Oregonian, October 18, 2001, Southwest Zoner, p 2
  5. ^ "1962; Show Highlights; Tucson Gem and Mineral Show" The Mineralogical Record Gale Group, Inc 35 1: S273 January 1, 2004 ISSN 0026-4628 
  6. ^ a b c d Mandel, Michelle “Splendid stones: free for the seeing”, The Oregonian, October 6, 1998, p B2
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Hansen, Ellen “Museum aims to spread the word about rocks”, The Portland Tribune, November 8, 2005
  8. ^ Phan, Aimee “Low-key museum rocks in Hillsboro”, The Oregonian, July 5, 2000, p C2
  9. ^ "Curator appointed; Museum Notes & Announcements; Rudy W Tschernich; Rice Northwest Museum of Rocks and Minerals; Brief Article" Rocks & Minerals Heldref Publications 78 3: 2042 May 1, 2003 ISSN 0035-7529 doi:101080/0035752920039926723 
  10. ^ Hill, Richard L “Mad about meteorites, enthusiasts run a program that identifies and collects space rocks at Portland State”, The Oregonian, December 8, 2004, p E12
  11. ^ Jones, Tricia “Museum displays meteorite samples”, The Columbian, August 10, 2004, p D4
  12. ^ Campbell, Polly “Meteorites land at Hillsboro Museum”, The Oregonian, July 15, 2004, West Zoner, p 2
  13. ^ Hill, Richard L “Oregon's Jurassic croc”, The Oregonian, March 17, 2007, p A1
  14. ^ “Jurassic Crocodile is Unearthed in Oregon; 'Crocodile-like Creature' with a 'Fish Tail'”, Underwatertimescom News Service, March 19, 2007
  15. ^ Campbell, Polly “Prospector says hobby is gilded in fun”, The Oregonian, August 18, 2005, West Zoner, p 2
  16. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m White, John S; Bill Dameron March 1, 2007 "Gallery reviews; United States mineralogy museum exhibits" The Mineralogical Record Gale Group, Inc 38 2: 1379 ISSN 0026-4628 
  17. ^ Diehl, Angella Foret “Neighborhood Roundup – Metro West Hillsboro: Rock Creek/Tanasbourne”, The Oregonian, August 28, 2008, Metro West Neighbors
  18. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Stevens, Michael O March 24, 2010 "Rice Museum of Rocks has more than just your ordinary rocks" Hillsboro OregonLivecom Retrieved March 28, 2010 
  19. ^ Baron, Connie January 9, 2012 "New curator at Rice NW Museum of Rocks and Minerals plans to balance job with education and outreach" The Oregonian Retrieved January 10, 2012 
  20. ^ Leone, Hannah July 15, 2014 "Rice NW Museum hires Julian Gray as new executive director" The Oregonian Retrieved 16 July 2014 
  21. ^ a b c Mandel, Michelle "New museum shows off rockhounds' bounty", The Oregonian, February 19, 1998, p E2
  22. ^ a b c Baron, Connie "Downtown Hillsboro: Summer may be winding down, but kids can still find fun activities", The Oregonian, August 30, 2007, Metro West Neighbors, p 18
  23. ^ Mandel, Michelle "Too big to keep secret", The Oregonian, January 17, 2003, p C1
  24. ^ MEH September 1, 2000 "Museum Notes & Announcements; Brief Article; Golden Opportunity" Rocks & Minerals Heldref Publications 75 5: 360 ISSN 0035-7529 doi:101080/00357520009603096 
  25. ^ Toland, Douglas C September 1, 2004 "Famous mineral localities: Green Monster Mountain, Prince of Wales Island, Alaska" The Mineralogical Record Gale Group, Inc 35 5: 383 24 ISSN 0026-4628 
  26. ^ Christie, Tim "Rock hounds check out goods at 18th annual Gem Faire", The Register Guard, March 26, 2007, Business and Financial News
  27. ^ Frank, Gerry "Frankly Speaking – Quest for best of Oregon reveals keepers", The Oregonian, July 2, 2006, p T4
  28. ^ Robinson, Ann “Plan next weekend Aug 17–19 In the shade, on the grass”, The Oregonian, August 12, 2007, p T8
  29. ^ “Neighborhood Roundup – West Metro – Hillsboro”, The Oregonian, August 3, 2006, Metro West Neighbors, p 14
  30. ^ “Free fossil fest offers activities for adults, kids”, The Oregonian, August 8, 2007, p C9
  31. ^ a b "Oregon National Register List" PDF State of Oregon Retrieved February 7, 2009 
  32. ^ a b c Knudsen, Jenn Director “North of Hillsboro – The quieter side of the city”, The Oregonian, October 26, 2008, p S5
  33. ^ a b c Trappen, Michelle “Close-in sun and fun: A stone's throw away”, The Oregonian, July 3, 2008, Metro West Neighbors, p 10
  34. ^ Oregon Historic Sites Database: Site Information: Rice, Richard & Helen, House Oregon Department of Parks and Recreation Retrieved February 7, 2009

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