Mines News

Release Date Monday, May 22, 2023

Museum of Geology at South Dakota Mines Celebrates 100 Years

The Museum of Geology at South Dakota Mines celebrates its 100th year of serving the Rapid City community from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. on Saturday, May 27, 2023. The event is free and open to the public.

This year the Museum of Geology at South Dakota Mines celebrates its 100th anniversary of being open to the public. A celebration is scheduled from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. on Saturday, May 27, 2023. The event is free and open to the public.

The event will take place on the exhibit floor of the Museum of Geology as well as the main atrium of the Paleontology Research Laboratory (PRL) and outside between these two buildings, weather permitting.

The celebration includes hourly behind-the-scenes tours of the PRL; a booth for rock and fossil identification; educational activities and booths from local partners including Badlands National Park, the Journey Museum, Rushmore Cave and more; an appearance by Mines mascot Grubby along with possible appearances by other mascots; and special events throughout the day including a visit from the Raptor Center, a pterodactyl tournament and dinosaur rodeo featuring Grubby.

“When people think of the South Dakota Mines, they may not think of the Museum of Geology right away. However, we've been there since the start, and several of our past presidents were geologists and paleontologists by training,” says Kayleigh Johnson, assistant director of the Museum of Geology.

The Museum of Geology was founded alongside Mines in 1885 with a donation of over 5,000 fossil and mineral specimens from Professor Gilbert Bailey, Johnson says. At that time, these specimens were used for research and education by student and faculty alike, but were not available to the general public.

Johnson explains that, in 1899, Professor Cleophas O’Harra began expeditions into the White River Badlands to explore the geology and paleontology of the area. O’Harra later became Mines president and helped create some of the most notable traditions and structures, including M Day, the freshman beanie, M Hill and the football field. O’Harra also published a book on the White River Badlands in 1920.

With the help of Professor Guy March, the Museum of Geology opened to the public in 1923, serving as a way to bridge community service and education, Johnson says. When O’Harra passed away in 1935, Professor Joseph Connolly became the next president of Mines. Johnson says not only did he begin the master’s programs at Mines, but he also took more students into the White River Badlands with funding from the National Geographic Society. Connolly also oversaw the construction of the O’Harra building, where the museum exhibit floor is currently housed.

Since then, the Museum of Geology has drawn visitors from far and wide to the Mines campus and continues to be a space of learning and research for all students, faculty and visitors.

“There are so many people who have been involved in the great history of the Museum of Geology that it’s impossible to name them all,” Johnson says. “We want to express our gratitude for those important figures, past and present, including Mines, our students, staff, volunteers, faculty, donors and our community.” 



About South Dakota Mines  

Founded in 1885, South Dakota Mines is one of the nation’s leading engineering, science and technology universities. South Dakota Mines offers bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees and a best-in-class education at an affordable price. The university enrolls 2,493 students with an average class size of 24. The South Dakota Mines placement rate for graduates is 98 percent, with an average starting salary of more than $70,036. For these reasons  South Dakota Mines is ranked among the best engineering schools in the country for return on investment. Find us online at www.sdsmt.edu and on FacebookTwitter, LinkedInInstagram, and Snapchat.

Contact: Mike Ray, 605-394-6082, mike.ray@sdsmt.edu