Rutgers Geology Museum Open House

2018-01-27 Rutgers Geology Museum

Celebrating their Golden (50th!) Open-House Anniversary – 1/27/2018

On a beautiful winter Saturday morning, I was able to squeeze a few hours out of the day to make a quick jaunt over to NJ to visit this museum.  This event is always published in the DVPS Newsletter, and every year I wasn\’t able to attend – until this year.  I was going to make time for this event and finally explore this museum.  So it was with happy anticipation that I picked up my sister and plugged in the museum\’s name into the GPS, then handed my phone over to my co-pilot.

Wrong Direction

Melanie – my able co-pilot – is staring at my phone with uncertainty.  I\’m chattering about how beautiful the day and driving confidently to the wrong city. Melanie announces that my GPS is taking north. Very north.  Past Street Road, which is  well out of the way I planned to drive.  With certainty, I declare there must be a mistake. For Rutgers is right over the bridge in Camden and it is certainly not past Street Road.

Melanie patiently deletes the route and tries entering it again. This time she confirms the location of the museum and informs me that the museum is in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Not Camden. I continue living in denial and pull up the PDF announcement to check.  Predictably I missed the very clear and well defined address posted on the announcement.  New Brunswick.

Pause here If anyone knows me, they should know by now that my sense of direction was completely off and that Melanie was right.  Everyone would know this – but me.  I still think I have some clue where I\’m going. I do not.  


My short \’hop\’ over the bridge turned into a 1.5h drive – one way.  After sharing conspiratorial glances and grins, Melanie and I shrugged our shoulders and headed north. New Brunswick, here we come!  Sisterly Conspiracy is the best conspiracy!

The skies were clear, the roads were atrocious, and Mel and I had coffees. Life was good.

Geology Museum

Arriving at the museum, we found a stately old building on a gentle hill, with hardly a parking spot available for anyone. People were milling about, standing in clumps, and seemingly having a grand day.  We found the Geology Museum building and entered.

19th Century Hidden Gem

I was treated to 19th Century Gallery museum. It is such a time capsule that top hats and walking sticks belong here.  I could almost imagine ladies with bell sleeves, high necklines, and fancy hats strolling along the upper level balcony.  What a gem of history hidden in plain site.

The museum is located on the upper floor of the building. As you turn from the staircase and stand in the dimly lit hall, you face the brightly lit museum.  The gallery is bathed by large windows and natural light. it is bright and inviting. The museum simply beckons inside.


Mr. Mastodon

As you pass through the doors, the first thing you\’ll see is the great mastodon skeleton looming over everything.  You can\’t miss him. He\’s impressive.  The exhibits are neatly aligned down the center, creating two hallways.  Although underwhelming in size, the museum is tiny, intimate, and impactful.

On this day they had tables set up for interactive exhibits for kids, coloring stations, and other hands-on experiences for young children. Naturally I stood in line so I could partake of some of the fun!  After all, I am a kid at heart.

Dino Impressions

I only noted a few exhibit details on this exploratory trip, including the impressive track-way / impressions of Grallator exhibit.  I was trying to read the details, but the Open House had a lot of families with young kids.  It was tricky not blocking the kids, so I may have missed some details.

If I remember correctly, the featured dinosaur shown over the Grallator impressions is not a Grallator, but another dino of similar build and size.  it is a representation of what the unknown Grallator looks like. I think? I\’ll return and confirm.


The museum had plenty of whimsy as well. I found blow-up dinos placed throughout the display cases, resting on shelves, and hovering over my head.  Isn\’t that too cute?

St. Clair

We also found a large display of St. Clair plant fossils. The classic \”black and white\” fossils that the state of PA is famous for (and the era is named after!).  There was an impressively large slab of clear impressions – hardly any blemishes at all. I only wish I could find something so clear and beautiful.

Glow rocks

The upstairs Gallery was limited and bare. Many of the displays were dismantled for maintenance and upkeep. Although Melanie and I did find a personally satisfying display of Sterling Mine florescent glow rocks.  Sadly they did not have any UV lights setup in order to see the rocks glow.

The Spiral of Death

AKA; a lovely wrought iron stair case that tries to kill me

We found what must be the world\’s tiniest spiral staircase at the back of the gallery.  Or at least, that is what I think it is. There was a line to use the staircase, and Melanie got in it. I knew what that meant.  That meant I was about to climb a death trap of iron and twisted metal.  And I did.

It was a flash back to climbing to the Crown of the Statue of Liberty. Tiny, tiny, so tiny stairs.  Pie-slice wedges that aren\’t large enough for my toes.  Ugh. Who designs these nightmares??

I would say that the entire staircase felt rickety, unstable, and that it rattled as I moved.  But Melanie says that it was just my trembling knees, and the staircase was rock solid.  I\’m doubtful. But no one else seemed to be screaming \”I\’m gonna die!\” – so she may be right.

Still, it is so tight and narrow that items in coat pockets kept getting caught in the iron railing decorations. Was everyone in the 19th Century the size of a leprechaun? I ended up climbing up the stairs lifting my coat up to my armpits while simultaneous clutching the railing.  It wasn\’t graceful.

After touring the museum too briefly, and agreeing to return at another time, we headed home to pick up our responsibilities and duties for the day.  The next time I\’m in the area, I\’ll see if I can swing by this adorable museum one more time – and absorb the exhibits more thoroughly.

Trip Summary

Trip Worthy?

  • Day trip? Yes
  • Weekend Trip? Probably not. Unless you are combining a few places in one weekend.
  • Worth Going Out of Our Way?  Only for special interests. This is a lovely, but small, museum. It would be worth it if you want a quick visit vs. an all-day museum.
  • Worth air-fare? No

Kid Friendly?

  • School kids? Absolutely! The museum really went out of their way to make this Open House day a fun-filled day for kids. They had stamp stations in which a paper passport could be used to collect a stamp and complete the Passport. Perhaps they have less offerings during normal days, but the kids will still enjoy this easy-to-absorb museum.
  • Teens? You can\’t stand under the mastodon tusks and not feel small.  This might be just the size museum for kids and teens: quick and uncomplicated, easy to complete.
  • Really young kids? The museum does not have an elevator. If you have strollers, be aware of this physical limitation. Also, the upstairs balcony is very tight, and a stroller may only complicate navigation.

Handicapped Limits

  • Please be aware that this an antiquated building without handicap facilities. When we asked for handicapped services, the volunteers indicated the only access was the staircase
  • Once in the museum, the second level can be accessed by a \’normal\’ staircase vs. the death-inducing spiral staircase referenced above. But at this time, I can\’t say the 2nd level is worth the stair-climb for anyone with limited mobility.

Enjoyment Level?

  • My sister and I found this museum charming and nostalgic. But I wouldn\’t recommend this as a MUST-SEE museum.  Instead, I feel this is a hidden gem that you will enjoy discovering and exploring
  • They were providing tours of other buildings during the Open House. We did not have time to join these tours, but we would like to explore these tours further.  If/When we do explore, updates will be shared