Editor’s Note: The Mesabi Daily News and Hibbing Daily Tribune offer the last installment of a six-part series celebrating National Travel and Tourism Week.
CHISHOLM — When you find a stone castle that’s home to retired mining equipment and trains you’ll know you’ve reached a true treasure: the Minnesota Museum of Mining. Located at 701 West Lake Street in Chisholm’s Memorial Park, the museum sits on more than 15 acres and captures the spirit of early life on the Iron Range with a collection of many unique artifacts.
To passersby, the Minnesota Museum of Mining may look like some sort of iron graveyard. From Chisholm’s main street, you can catch glimpses of hulking pieces of mining equipment peeking out from a canopy of trees. Nestled between an RV Park and Campground and the city’s sporting area, the antique haul truck, steam shovel, 1907 steam locomotive and other pieces of retired mining equipment look as as out-of-place as the museums’ central building: a castle made entirely of stone.
Carol Borich is the current treasurer at the Minnesota Museum of Mining and is part of a team of five employees and countless volunteers who are busy preparing the museum’s campus for the invasion of over 500 campers next week.
“It’s fascinating,” said Borich, with her ever-present smile. “Next weekend, we’ll have over 520 Cub Scouts, Scouts and Webelos here camping. We’ll have campers coming from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, four counties in Northwestern Wisconsin, and the Northeastern Area of Minnesota extending from Pine City to Northwest of Bagely and the whole Arrowhead Region.”
The Voyageurs Area Council, Boy Scouts of America is holding a Camporall at on the museum grounds—it’s expected to be the largest spring weekend youth event in the council’s 25-year history and campers will have the opportunity to participate in a variety of outdoor adventures, earn merit badges and learn about Minnesota’s rich mining history.
“Our job will be to be open to the campers,” Borich explained. “We’ll have a trading post open and we’re responsible for the snack shack. It’s my understanding that some cub scouts who are too young to camp overnight may also be coming for the event and will be staying at a motel rather than here.”
“It’s not our biggest group ever, but it’s big,” Borich said, smiling. “Our biggest was 950 bicycle riders who were part of the MS Tram a few years ago.”
Even though the museum officially opens on the Friday before Memorial Day, Borich and her husband Denny have been busy already this season giving tours to various schools and groups interested in learning more about mining. “We get a lot of schools, we’ve had some from Mora and Cohasset already this year and it seems that third and fourth graders are the most common classes to come and visit,” Borich said. “They’ve been learning about Minnesota history and Minnesota geology and are old enough to have a grasp on mining then and mining now.”
Borich chucked as she talked about the kids visiting the museum. “We get a lot of families. Often times we’ll see families coming through who are at the cabin and it’s a rainy day so they come here and the parents let them run. It’s a fun place for kids to go. They can go in the train and pull on the levers. They can play until they’re exhausted and can’t hurt this big equipment.”
In addition to the castle and the big equipment, there are several other buildings on the grounds that house exhibits that illustrate the life of early immigrants, an underground mining experience, the first Greyhound Bus, retired fire trucks, and a hand built railroad diorama by famous illustrator F.E. Jaques.
Last year, the museum counted over 4,500 visitors — a 54 percent increase — and Borich figures that some of the increased traffic from last year can be attributed to the temporary closing of the Hull Rust Mine View in Hibbing. “We have a very high crossover in visitors” Borich said. “When we ask our visitors where else they’ve visited, the number one response is the Mineview—we attract the same sort of people.” There’s a little crossover with neighboring Minnesota Discovery Center as well.
The Minnesota Museum of Mining is supported by a number of primary sponsors including the St. Louis County Historical Society, Hibbing Historical Society, the City of Chisholm, Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration (SME) and their members. Borich said, “We have the same membership rates that we had when we opened in 1954. Our prices were set in our articles of incorporation.”
There’s a lot in store for the museum this summer: the fifth annual Iron Pour is slated for June 7-8, and the Tour of Minnesota bicycle group will be spending the night on June 15, and the American Cancer Society Relay for Life and annual kids day will be held in the fall. “We have another wedding this summer too,” Borich added.
Borich said they’re always looking for new members and new volunteers to lend a helping hand. “We’re always looking for retired miners to periodically be at events to answer questions and explain the equipment, and could use a couple more volunteers in our store,” Borich said. There’s also a position or two open for anyone who likes to attend to yard work and paint.