Gold galleons, buried jewels and plundered booty: no summer vacation should be without a good treasure hunt!
This summer, Bozeman, Montana’s Museum of the Rockies provides the tools and tutorials for modern-day treasure hunters to uncover a variety of loot thanks to the new exhibit, “Treasure!”
Open May 23-Sept. 7, the traveling exhibit entices youngsters and oldsters to find buried treasure, understand the history of treasure hunting and participate in uncovering underwater caches. A high-tech exhibit helps illuminate 21st century treasure hunt methods too.
Visitors also can learn about exploring attics, buried treasure, gold rushes, protecting treasure, and treasure in popular culture.
“There are several real shipwrecks included in the exhibit,” says Jamie Cornish, the museum’s director of marketing and public programs at the MOR. “The shipwrecks came from waters in the Great Lakes, off the coast of Florida and the shores of England.”
That the exhibit headlines the museum’s exhibitions this year is apropos since Montana’s nickname is the “Treasure State.”
Millions of dollars in gold alone have been found in Montana since the first gold discovery in 1862 at Bannack along Grasshopper Creek near Dillon. Gold discovery at Alder Gulch, between Virginia City and Nevada City, in the spring of 1863, set off Montana’s gold rush.
Much of the precious metals were found in what’s now called Gold West Country of southwest Montana. Other precious metals extracted from under the grassy plains and boulder-strewn mountains include silver, copper, platinum and palladium.
The exhibit entices visitors with an actual gold panning activity, biographical sketches, timelines, and maps of the gold rushes of the West. Visitors can also check the worth of their weight in gold with a special scale.
The museum has partnered with Earth’s Treasures, a local company specializing in mining equipment, to teach the basics of panning for gold through demonstration, instruction and hands-on activities.
“You can learn what to look for as you prospect for gold and discover the different ways of gold mining from simple to complex,” explains Cornish. “Other activities include using metal detectors, cracking a safe, trying out alarms, making a crayon rubbing, and operating an underwater vehicle.”
There’s even a class on gold panning. The $25 registration includes a gold panning kit complete with a gold pan, instructional book, sucking tweezers, holding vial, plus a bag of sand guaranteed to contain some gold. Luckily it’s summer, because participants 12 years and older will get wet as they pan for their own gold to take home. Class size is limited and pre-registration is required for the June 27 session which runs 10:30 a.m. to noon.
But what treasure seekers these days hope to find, at least at the Museum of the Rockies, is something of value—knowledge revealed in museum expeditions.
“The topic (treasure) is one that sparks the imagination of visitors of all ages, and because we include many different types of treasure—from large quantities of gold to the sentimental teddy bear—I think that everyone will learn something about treasure hunting and also be compelled to reflect on their own ideas of treasure,” say Cornish.
While “Treasure!” leaves Bozeman in September, other treasures regularly abound at the museum. Most famous is the tour through 4 billion years of history that takes visitors through the geology hall called Landforms/Lifeforms. Next is the very realistic dinosaur hall and the glimpse at one day 80 million years ago.
The Native American exhibits and recent-history displays lead visitors through the fur-trapping era and homesteading to the Taylor Planetarium for a look at the Big Sky’s night sky.
Outside the museum’s walls is a Montana homestead where, during the summer, volunteers maintain a living history farm. Donkeys, geese and cattle munch on native grasses while the “farmers” bake bread, mend fences and sew quilts, among other duties.