Thomas S. Warren Museum of Fluorescence at Sterling Hill Mine Museum Sterling Hill Mining Museum and Museum of Flurescence

A Brief History of the Warren Museum

historical photo of Sterling Hill Mining Museum

The idea of creating a museum of fluorescence at Sterling Hill grew from an earlier concept to mount a permanent display of fluorescent minerals in one of the basement rooms of the old Sterling Mill, an imposing, multistory structure constructed in 1916. 

The mill was used continuously by the New Jersey Zinc Company until 1958, and by 1962 all but its lowermost level, a series of concrete-walled rooms that served as the foundation for the edifice above, was demolished.  The foundation subsequently was buried under a thick layer of earth, where it remained until it was exhumed by Robert Hauck of the Sterling Hill Mining Museum in 1990.  Excavation and rehabilitation of the mill foundation rooms added more than 4,600 square feet of potential exhibit and classroom space to the museum holdings.  This was to become the Geotech Center, the educational arm of the Sterling Hill Mining Museum.

By 1996 the initial intent of developing a modest display of fluorescent minerals in the Geotech Center had blossomed into plans for a museum of fluorescence, to be used not only as a public attraction but also as a resource for educators in science.  Three rooms of the Geotech Center were reserved for that purpose, and on October 16, 1999, with 14 temporary exhibits in place, the Thomas S. Warren Museum of Fluorescence was dedicated.  Work on constructing the permanent displays began shortly thereafter.  The museum formally opened to the public in late September, 2000, with more than 550 objects on display in 16 built-in cases.

A fourth room was added to the Warren Museum in 2004 thanks to the generosity of George E. Hesselbacher, Jr., who not only underwrote the construction costs of this project but also donated his best specimens of fluorescent crystals to the museum.  The Hesselbacher Room was dedicated in September 2004, with George's family in attendance.  Unfortunately George did not live to see his eponymous facility in person, but he was kept well informed as work progressed beyond planning into the construction stages.

Since 2004 we have gradually added other exhibits, including one on the fluorescent minerals of Greenland, another on fluorescent concrete from Franklin (less than three miles away), two large (3-4 ft) slabs of fluorescent Sterling Hill zinc ore, and several exhibits, formerly housed at Pennsylvania State University, on the technical aspects of fluorescence.  Additional exhibits are in the planning stages, and materials for some have already been acquired.  Future exhibits will concentrate more on the uses of fluorescent materials than on fluorescent minerals.