The Mineral Museum at the corner of Socorro’s Leroy and Bullock is more than just an arm of the New Mexico Bureau of Geology. It’s a destination in itself; witness the number of people every year that venture off the main drag of California Street to visit.

“There are, of course, a lot of locals who come in,” said Kelsey McNamara, curator of the museum. “But also a lot of mineral enthusiasts traveling through.”

An estimated 15,000 people visit the museum each year, ranging from school class trips to dedicated rockhounds who enjoy the aesthetic beauty of the rarest specimens. Such was the case last month when Judy Lehmberg, a contributing videographer for CBS Sunday Morning and her husband, Verne Lehmberg, happened to be taking in the sights at Bosque del Apache NWR. Their visit resulted in a segment on CBS Sunday Morning about the Mineral Museum.

“In the case of Judy and her husband, who took the photos for the piece,” McNamara said. “We didn’t realize it, but he had been coming here with his camera and tripod taking photos of some of the minerals for about a week.”

She said he never said anything and quietly took photos.

“Then we got a call from her one day and she said she’d like to do a piece for CBS Sunday Morning,” McNamara said. “I put her in touch with Bob Eveleth because she wanted more background and history of the area, and there is no one more knowledgeable.”

In the CBS story, Lehmberg, a former college biology teacher who now shoots nature videos, said she and her husband had been coming to Bosque del Apache for the sandhill cranes and other wintering fowl during the Festival of the Cranes for several years, starting back in the early 1980s.

“A New Mexico Tech recruiter invited us to bring our students during a six-week summer field trip in environmental science and plant taxonomy,” Lehmberg said in her piece.

“The trip took us through New Mexico, the Grand Canyon, Arches, the Tetons and finally Yellowstone. The students learned the same basic information as they would on campus, but the lab activities and examples we could show them were obviously more real-life.”

On the New Mexico Tech visit, they were given a tour of a real mine, “where we even got to collect some samples.”

Cut to November 2019. She and Verne were camping right outside the refuge, and as the bird activity had slowed down one day they decided to head up to Socorro to visit the Mineral Museum.

“I hadn’t been there in years and had forgotten just how exquisite their collection is,” Lehmberg writes. “Luckily, I was able to see it with Bob Eveleth, Senior Mining Engineer Emeritus, who reintroduced me to the collection with his extensive knowledge and enthusiasm. Some of the minerals we saw so many years ago on our mine tour in the Magdalena District are on display in the museum, including several color variations of Smithsonite.”

The entire story (with Verne Lehmberg’s photographs) can be found here: nature-up-close-an-unexpected-gem-ofa-museum/

The museum is open Monday to Friday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and on Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Closed on Christmas.