Have you heard about the geology museum at Clemson University in South Carolina? The Bob Campbell Geology Museum on Clemson’s campus near Anderson is packed full of interesting gems, crystals, rocks, and even dinosaur fossils. The impressive collection is educational, but tons of fun! You will walk away with a newfound appreciation for all of the things hidden beneath the surface of the earth. It’s certainly worth a visit if you’re in the area. Due to severe damage the museum suffered in December 2022, the museum will be closed for repairs until further notice.
I’ve become pretty fascinated by rocks in the last few months solely because of the fact that my kids and I are working through our Geology unit for homeschooling. I never knew how interesting rocks could be, the different ways they are formed, and just how diverse the world of crystals and gems is. I also had no idea, until I checked out the Bob Campbell Geology Museum at Clemson, just how many fantastic gems and rocks had been found right in our state of South Carolina. The museum is home to the largest collection of faceted gemstones in the Southeastern United States. So if you are a gem lover, this museum will bring you so much joy!
So it was because of our study of geology that I ended up taking my kids (ages 11 and 7) to the museum as a field trip. I had heard about the museum in passing but paid no attention because rocks were boring. I’m happy to say now that I was wrong. Rocks are super interesting and my kids and I really enjoyed this museum. And, don’t be fooled by the size of the museum – it’s small but it houses a collection of more than 10,000 gems, minerals, and crystals.
What’s inside the Bob Campbell Geology Museum
Much like a geode I’m hoping to smash, I didn’t know what I’d find inside the Bob Campbell Geology Museum. I figured some neat rocks, gems, and crystals. I was pleasantly surprised to find a decent-sized room with glass cabinets full of precious gems and minerals. They seemed to have everything in there from birthstones to fossils to dazzling crystals. It’s not huge but it’s packed with an enormous amount of things to see.
They also had a really neat display with the minerals and atoms that make up specific crystals. We had just studied these a couple of weeks ago so it was awesome to see it face-to-face and something that I could point out to my kids. Another cool thing they had was a piece of volcanic glass, which is lava or magma that is shot up into the air during a volcanic eruption and cools quickly. We had just learned about that days before so I was ecstatic to get to see and feel it at the museum. Does it sound like I enjoyed this museum more than my kids? It’s possible. They loved it though, too. I just may have enjoyed it a tad more.
Hands on displays
While thousands of rocks, minerals, and gems are behind the glass-enclosed doors, the museum does have several gems and rocks that guests can handle. The displays are fun and engaging since there are questions on each board that ask people to hold the rocks and try to feel the differences between them or compare their shininess.
Fluorescent rock room
Our favorite display at the geology museum was the fluorescent light rock room. This was a small space that you stepped into, turned off all the lights, and then hit the start button. A narrator explained what you were seeing, which was black light shining on the different rocks that were placed behind glass. The museum has the largest collection of fluorescent minerals in the Southeastern United States!
As the light shone brighter on the rocks, you could see all the amazing colors from inside the rocks like red, blue, and green. It was the coolest thing! My kids really liked this and since there wasn’t anyone else there, we did it twice.
In addition to the rock part of the museum, there are dinosaur fossils and bones to check out. There is an enormous foot and leg bone in the room that reaches 11 feet high plus the skull of one dinosaur.
There is also a full skeleton display of a Smilodon, “Clemson’s oldest ‘tiger’.” You’ll learn all about the Saber-Tooth Tiger and why it’s named that when you visit.
Digital Collection and Virtual Museum Tour
If you’re looking for a way to view the museum without traveling, you can check out the Bob Campbell Geology Musuem’s digital collection. The collection is immense and is an excellent way to check out what the museum has to offer before you visit in addition to researching what you saw while you were there. You can also view the museum with a virtual museum tour, excellent for those who cannot travel to the museum, or parents who are homeschooling.
The small gift shop at the geology museum has a large array of all things gemstone. They’ve got geodes you can buy plus stones and gems, Himalayan salt lamps, rock and crystal kits, jewelry, and toys.
I was impressed with the number of neat things they had for sale, including stones and gems found right in South Carolina. The cashier was helpful as well since I had a question about some of the rocks we saw and she got me the answers.
Things to do nearby in Anderson, SC
The geology museum is a great stop while visiting the South Carolina Botanical Gardens (this is the place that has the standing caboose and 300 acres of beautiful gardens to walk through), as it is part of the gardens themselves.
Visiting the Bob Campbell Geology Museum is an excellent idea for a rainy day. Make an itinerary of indoor things to do in Clemson to enjoy the town, even when its soggy or cold outside.
You can also visit Split Creek Farm, the award-winning goat farm, and check out their goats and peruse the gift shop. Get the fudge. You won’t regret it. The farm shop is open daily except for Sunday and you can visit the goats only on Friday and Saturday.
If you interested in visiting Clemson University itself, you will find a full itinerary of things to do, places to eat, where to hike, and more in our guide to Clemson University.
Just a short drive from the Clemson University is Stumphouse Tunnel. You can walk down a quarter mile tunnel (flashlight needed) and explore the pre-Civil War tunnel that was once used by the university to cure blue cheese!
Additionally, the Clemson Experimental Forest trails are just 15 minutes away. There are tons of great trails throughout the forest with little to no elevation, so perfect for kids.
During the spring and fall, Denver Downs Farm is close and has a ton of fun for families to enjoy.
Visiting the Bob Campbell Geology Museum
Admission to the Bob Campbell Geology Museum is free. Donations are encouraged. The museum is located on the campus of Clemson University and there is a pretty desert garden with lots of cacti and pointy plants surrounding the geology museum, including a bone sculpture in the back.
The museum is located in the same area as the South Carolina Botanical Garden, so you can make a day trip to the gardens, walking the trails and exploring the gardens, before or after heading to the geology museum.
The museum is also handicap accessible.
Parking is plentiful and free.
Hours are 10 am – 5 pm Monday through Sunday. They are closed on the official Clemson holidays.
Have you visited the geology museum?