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

Lead 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 has created a virtual museum of rock, mineral and fossil samples from sites and collections across British Columbia. The online resource includes virtual 360-degree field trips at key locations across BC and is 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

British Columbia 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 mining history and from current mining activities that provide the metals and minerals needed for modern technologies, renewable power generation and energy 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 is helping 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:

  • Updated the existing Below BC online digital rock and mineral collection with new photographed and scanned specimens from sites in BC;
  • Provided scientifically accurate descriptions of all samples, including the composition, history and importance to the province;
  • Engaged BC-based exploration companies, private collectors and prospectors to provide samples from their collections to increase representation of current activities as well as historical work for the public;
  • Developed 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;
  • Engaged with the industry and the public through various outreach events, classroom visits and conference posters and/or presentations; and
  • Led 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 also helped 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, mineral and fossil 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

Two data collection trips took place in 2019. The first trip travelled from Vancouver through southern BC visiting Kamloops, Galena Bay, Yoho National Park, Invermere, Kimberly, Sparwood, Kootenay Bay, and New Denver.  The second trip toured northern BC, including stops near Barkerville, Smithers, and Stewart.

How is the Data Collected?

This public outreach project collected 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 was modified to allow it to capture rock and mineral specimens. The output from the camera produced an interactive and highly engaging image for the website, which includes additional information layered on, such as history or close-up images of the samples. The specimens were 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 also used 360-degree cameras to create virtual 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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What Was Found?

The new images and virtual field trips have been uploaded to the Below BC website.

Visit Below BC home page