The Minnesota Museum of Mining is the only museum of its kind in the country, dedicated to preserving the history of the Iron Mining Industry in Minnesota as well as telling the story of the men and women who made a life working on the Iron Range.
The Minnesota Museum of Mining serves to educate visitors about the history of mining in Minnesota, and illustrates the life of ordinary people, mostly immigrant families, from the earliest years of European settlement and mining on Minnesota's Mesabi as well as Cuyuna and Vermilion Iron Ranges. Stchool groups from around the state come to the museum to learn about mining from past to present, and are guided through the displays by museum volunteers. The museum sends packets of information, including a curriculum guide for use in teaching the history of mining in northern Minnesota, to elementary teachers in Northeastern Minnesota.
The Museum is located in downtown Chisholm, right in the heart of the Mesabi Iron Range, once home to more than 100 mining pit operations. The Mesabi, Vermilion and Cuyuna iron ranges make up the largest concentration of iron ore in the world.
The Museum operates within an expansive city park complex built in the 1930s, surrounded by a massive rock wall built by out-of-work miners in a WPA project. A granite castle, based on the Army Corp of Engineers logo, was built as the clubhouse for the Sportsmen's Club shooting range, the oldest gun club in Minnesota. A 1000-seat outdoor stone and concrete amphitheater, still in use, was built to host pageants and programs. The museum grounds extend over 13 acres, and picnicking on the grounds is encouraged. A pavilion shelters guests in rainy weather.
Established in 1954 within the park, the Museum uses the Castle for admissions and video displays. Outside, a mining "truck park" containing huge mining shovels, a 1907 steam locomotive, ore cars, cabooses, assorted rock drills, pumps, and other mining heavy equipment can be entered by visitors. Inside the display buildings are an extensive geology exhibit with large format specimens, the "Ore to Steel" exhibit featuring mine office and lab plus large scale models of headframes and wash plant, and a chainsaw & logging equipment collection. The Iron Range Life exhibit shows a school, shops, a home, newspaper office, blacksmithy, and Doc "Moonlight" Graham's office equipment. An authentic Finnish sauna nestles into the woods, and artist F. Lee Jacques' personal model train and diorama—40 years in the making— fills one building by itself. A simulated underground mine can be entered, and the museum boasts the earliest Greyhound bus (1916) as well as two vintage fire trucks. The museum is kid-friendly and visitors to the museum enjoy a hands-on experience.