Access to the Mining Heritage of British Columbia: Bringing Geological Collections to the Masses

Key Researcher(s):  A. Randell

Project ID:  2018-026

Key Research Organization(s):  The Below BC Geological Association

Project Location:  Southern BC

Strategic Focus Area:  Minerals


Below BC is creating a virtual museum of rock, mineral and fossil samples from sites and collections across British Columbia. The online resource, which will include virtual 360-degree field trips at key locations across BC, will be accessible to everyone for educational, research and general interest purposes.

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from Pacific Museum of Earth


from Pacific Museum of Earth


The Need

Our province has a rich mining history and many communities were founded on mining and prospecting activities. Mining continues to play a key role in the BC economy today. Despite this, the general public is often disconnected from the rich mining history and from current mining activities that provide the metals and minerals needed for modern technologies and renewable power generation and storage.

Below BC has between 8,000 and 10,000 face-to-face interactions with members of the public each year through a variety of public outreach events. However, physically attending these events with a growing collection has proven costly and difficult to manage. A digital museum will help to expand Below BC’s activities and make collections easier to access for all.

Project Goals

This project fits under Geoscience BC’s Strategic Objective of ‘Advancing Science & Innovative Geoscience Technologies’ and the goal to:

  • Support the preservation and curation of significant geological rock suites, core samples, archived government and museum samples, data and other important materials that form reference or historical records to complement efforts of other organizations

Specifically, Below BC will:

  • Update the existing Below BC online digital rock and mineral collection with new photographed and scanned specimens from sites in BC;
  • Include researched and scientifically accurate descriptions of all samples, including the composition, history and importance to the province;
  • Engage BC-based exploration companies to provide samples from their sites to increase representation of current activities as well as historical work for the public;
  • Develop additional multimedia (e.g. images, videos, audio narration) for each field trip, incorporating technical expertise, scientific and remote sensing data, historical imagery and local and traditional knowledge;
  • Engage with the industry and the public through various outreach events, classroom visits and conference posters and/or presentations; and
  • Lead workshops for industry, community, education and Indigenous groups showcasing the technology, training how to interact with it and displaying how it can improve geoscience literacy. This will also help improve the digital products.

Project Benefits

By creating an online resource that connects the geological and social history of mining in BC with current mining activities, rock collections are accessible to a much wider audience. This reduces travel, increases safety (e.g. being able to showcase radioactive materials) and aligns with Geoscience BC’s strategic objectives. So far, the collection has been accessed by schools, academics, geological researchers and the public.

Survey Area

Although this is a province-wide project, data will initially be collected in the south of the province between Hope to the west, Sparwood to the east, and Golden to the north with many stops in between.

How is the Data Collected?

This public outreach project will collect information using a 3D-capable camera and stand for up-close rock, fossil and mineral images; and a 360-degree camera for interactive virtual field trips.

Below BC’s camera is modified to allow it to capture rock and mineral specimens. The output from this camera produces an interactive and highly engaging image for a website, which can have additional information layered on, such as history or close-up images of the samples. Specimens are then curated by Below BC into a digital museum with descriptions of the history and importance of each sample that can be searched by keywords or via an interactive map of BC.

Below BC will also be using 360-degree cameras that allow it to create virtual reality field trips of geologically significant sites. These can be type-localities for rocks, or historical locations such as old mines. This record preserves sites that may otherwise be lost, redeveloped or destroyed over time and increases access to the public for sites that many people never visit.

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