Archive for July, 2010

The last two weeks I’ve been busy preparing my chemistry and astronomy curricula for school this fall and writing a Preliminary Proposal for the National Science Foundation’s Informal Science Education grant. That was submitted last Thursday, and then I’ve been gone to a family reunion over this last weekend at Bear Lake in northern Utah.

Aerial view of Eureka

Aerial View of Eureka, UT

My proposal has some changes from what I wrote last year; the core of having high school students work with historians, engineers, and other experts to document the history and uses of the chemical elements is still the mainstay of the Elements Unearthed project, but student-created videos aren’t as unique as they were two years ago when I first proposed this project. The NSF program is also more for informal science education: afterschool, public television, or museum programs outside the regular formal education system. Now that I am back teaching chemistry and multimedia in a high school setting, I have a group of students under my direction that can do much of the video editing and research themselves as part of my classes in a formal setting. What I am proposing for NSF to fund is the museum aspect of the project, thereby simplifying my proposal and making it more palatable. I am attaching the six-page project description here:


Based on what I’ve seen visiting museums across the country that have mining exhibits is that most mining towns are rural and don’t have the wherewithal to host a museum that can really stand on its own. Most small town museums are drastically underfunded and staffed with volunteers; the museums usually have poor Internet presence – if they have a website, it was probably created by somebody’s nephew ten years ago and is usually out of date and ineffective and doesn’t take advantage of Internet video, Web 2.0 technologies, or social networking links. The staff at these museums consists of elderly docents with a passion for local history and a great deal of personal knowledge that has never been recorded; the exhibits usually have faded labels and inadequate signage. So my proposal has three parts to it, all based on enhancing the quality of exhibits and the number of visitors to small town museums with mining exhibits, and all centered around what the museums need instead of what I want my project to do.

The first aspect of this Small Museum Enhancement Program is to meet with museum staff and determine what the museum most needs in terms of exhibit improvements or new exhibits, then provide the funds so that carpenters, electricians, and other contractors can fix up and rebuild the exhibits, such as providing better lighting to displays, building risers inside glass display cases to better display artifacts, cleaning and repairing the artifacts themselves, and in general digitizing and cataloging all the collections.

Eureka, Utah in 1911

Panorama of Eureka, Utah in 1911

The second aspect is to improve the museum’s online presence through redesigning the museum’s website and linking it to social networking sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, Scribd, GoogleEarth, etc. None of these small museums make use of blogs as a way of promoting the museum and keeping the public’s interest up, so I’m proposing that the staff be trained on how to set up and maintain a blog, including how to convert their photos and documents to be uploaded and linked as .pdf files to their blogs and to Scribd and other sites.

The third aspect of the proposal is what the Elements Unearthed project has always been about: adding to the museum’s collections by interviewing the staff, videotaping their tours of the museums, and collecting photos and oral histories from the community. Teams of local high school students will work with my students at Walden school to set up community nights where local townspeople bring in photos, documents, and other artifacts and allow us to scan or photograph them, then tell us their stories of the town and the mines on camera. We’ll edit all of this into the podcast/YouTube videos as we already have been doing. One addition is that we’ll also create “point-to-point” video segments based on specific locations in the museum corresponding to particular displays and create short videos that describe the display, show the docent explaining it, and add community and other resources beyond what the display can hold. These videos will be placed on iPads and used by visitors as they tour the museum, playing the videos as they reach each stop on the tour.

These are the three main points of the NSF-ISE proposal. Assuming this proposal receives encouragement to proceed, the final proposal must be submitted by early December. Based on my feedback from last year, I need to develop a stronger collaborative team instead of trying to do all of it myself (thereby increasing the probability of success) and I need a stronger evaluation plan, which means actually having a third party firm involved to plan the experimental design. NSF doesn’t want just projects that are worthwhile, they wan them to also enhance the field of informal science education through fundamental scientific investigation of what types of programs are effective for science education in informal settings. These strategic impacts mean a carefully considered methodology, and my attempts to set up a plan last year weren’t seen as strong enough strategically.

Toward that end, if anyone out there would like to comment on my proposal (if you think it is worthwhile, and if you have suggestions for improving it, etc.) then please take a look at the Preliminary Proposal and give me some feedback, either as a comment to this blog or to my e-mail at: elementsunearthed@gmail.com.


David Black

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For the last week, I’ve been busy preparing for my classes at Walden School, including inventorying the science lab room (which is also my classroom) and planning out my course schedules. I’ll be teaching two sections of Chemistry, one of Astronomy, one of Computer Technology (a basic computer literacy course required in Utah), a section of Media Design, and a section of Video Production. This is, for me, a perfect schedule. In the meantime I’ve also been preparing a series of maps and 3D images of the Tintic Mining District, focusing on the ore deposits and the various mines located there. I’ve also prepared the script for this section of the video, which I have pasted below:

Mines in the East Tintic Mts

MInes and Roads in the East Tintic Mtns.

Tintic Geology

To understand how the ore bodies in the Tintic District were deposited, we have to start about 800 million years ago in the Precambrian Period when the western portion of the North American craton rifted away from the rest of the continent along a line where the Wasatch Front now lies – this Wasatch Line has been an important hinge line in Utah’s geology ever since. For the next 600 million years, a sequence of ocean sediments including dolomite, limestone, shale, and sandstone were deposited off the coast in the geosyncline that would become western Utah. Beginning 150 million years ago, Nevada and then western Utah were uplifted as the Farallon tectonic plate was pushed under North America. Like a throw rug being wrinkled up as it’s pushed over a hardwood floor, western Utah was folded by thrust faults into a large mountain range during the Sevier orogeny about 70 million years ago. This thrusting continued across eastern Utah and into Colorado and Wyoming during the Laramide orogeny, building up the Uintah and Rocky Mountains.

East Tintic Mines

Mines in the eastern portion of the Tintic Mining District

Then, about 50 million years ago, the Farallon plate began to collapse from underneath the continent. As it peeled away, a wave of volcanism moved from east to west across Colorado and Utah. Intrusive laccoliths rose to the surface, bulging up the LaSal and Henry Mountains in eastern Utah and forming explosive calderas in several places in western Utah. About 35 million years ago, a series of calderas formed in the area that would become the Tintic Mountains. A large andesitic volcano rose up from eruptions of ash and tuft.

Tintic Standard ore samples

Ore samples from the Tintic Standard Mine, eastern district.

About 31.5 million years ago, the volcano collapsed as the intrusive magma began to cool. Mineral rich fluids were injected into the surrounding limestone, quartzite, and dolomite as replacement beds. The hot magma caused the carbonate rocks to decompose; for example, limestone turns into lime or calcium oxide and carbon dioxide gas when heated. This left large cavities that then filled up with the mineral-laden magmas. These deposits are called stopes, such as the famous Oklahoma stope of the Chief Consolidated mine. The carbon dioxide released from the decomposing limestone and dolomite in turn dissolved into the hot magma, making it a kind of lava champagne, and reacting with it to form various exotic minerals, some of which are found nowhere else.

More Tintic ore samples

More ore samples from the Tintic District

The primary ore-bearing minerals in the Tintic District are enargite, tetrahedrite, galena, sphalerite, pyrite, marcasite, and native gold, silver, and copper. But many more minerals are present, including unusual minerals that blend copper, silver, tellurium, arsenic, sulfur, carbonates, hydrodixes, etc. At the Centennial Eureka mine, over 85 different minerals have been identified, ranging from common pyrite, malachite, and azurite to minerals found only here. It is the type locality (where the mineral was first identified) for leisingite, frankhawthorneite, jensenite, juabite, utahite, and eurekadumpite. Other rare minerals include xocomecatlite, carmenite, adamite, duftite, and mcalpineite.

These mineral deposits occurred around the edges of the caldera and formed the five large ore zones of the main Tintic District. The Gemini Ore Zone runs to the west of Eureka south to the north edge of Mammoth Gulch. The Gemini, the Bullion Beck and Champion, the Eureka Hill, and the Centennial Eureka mines (known collectively as the Big Four) are located on this zone.

The Chief-Mammoth Ore Zone begins under the center of Eureka and extends due south across the mountain to the east end of Mammoth Gulch. The Chief Consolidated mine is located on the richest ore body, which is right under the center of Eureka city; up the hill is the Eagle and Blue Bell mine, named for the beautiful deposits of azurite found inside. Further south over the top of Eureka Peak lie the Grand Central, Mammoth, Apex, and Gold Chain mines that are also part of this deposit.

Ore zones in the Tintic District

Ore Zones and Major Mines of the Tintic Mining District

The Plutus Zone branches off of the Chief-Mammoth Zone high up in the Tintic Mountains. The Godiva Zone starts just east of Eureka and runs southeast in a curve where it joins the Iron Blossom Zone, which continues in a curve south and then southwest. Some mines in these zones include the Godiva, May Day, Humbug, Beck Tunnel, Sioux, and Iron Blossom mines.

In the eastern section of the Tintic District, several zones of minerals were deposited and were among the last to be discovered because they are overlain by 400 feet of igneous rock. These bodies include the Burgin ore body, the Tintic Standard, and the North Lily bodies. Other bodies are located at the Apex and Trixie mines.

In the southern section of the Tintic District, the large replacement bodies give way to smaller fissure veins that are only two feet wide on average but can be up to 4000 feet long. Here, the mineral-bearing magma was injected into cracks and fault lines already existing in the host rocks. The Dragon mine is the only true open pit mine in the area; it sits on top of a network of fissure veins at the south end of the Iron Blossom Zone. Other mines in the area include the Swansea and Sunbeam mines at Silver City, the Tesora and Treasure Hill mines at Ruby Gulch, and the Showers mine at Diamond Gulch.

More ore samples from the Tintic Standard Mine

More ore samples from the Tintic Standard Mine

The final chapter in the area’s geomorphology began about 17 million years ago when normal faulting created the Basin and Range province, lifting up blocks to form the mountain ranges of Utah and Nevada, including the East Tintic Mountains. Other blocks sank to form the valleys, such as the Tintic Valley. Erosion has exposed the ore bodies in many places, including the outcropping that George Rust stumbled over in 1869. It was to become the Sunbeam Mine.

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