Virtual Excursion: Reflecting on Memories and Minerals

Calcite specimen in the James Madison University Mineral Museum. Photo by Jeff Scovil

By Antoinette Rahn

While I’ve never seen the mineral museum at James Madison University (JMU) in person, I have heard of it, thanks to a former colleague who taught me a lot about a lot of things.

The mineral museum is on the JMU campus in Harrisonburg, VA. According to recent reports, it contains an even more extensive and diverse selection of specimens than when I first heard about it, but that only shows how some good things can not only stand the test of time but get better.

On Friday evening, Jan. 15, 2021 everyone has the chance to participate in a free virtual tour of the museum, courtesy of two leading geologists who are very familiar with the collection, Drs. Cynthia and Lance Kearns. The tour begins at 6 p.m. EST. Learn more:

Enjoy a video about the JMU Mineral Museum….

Minerals and Memories

Not only am I intrigued to attend this tour because 1. I love minerals and 2. I love museums, but in a small way, it’s an opportunity to honor the memory of a former colleague, Mark Scarborough. I know we all have those co-workers who cross our path and leave an impression, good, bad, and maybe a little of both. Mark left an impression. I’ve not always been able to easily explain the impact he had, as he was a unique individual, but upon seeing information about this virtual tour, it came to me. Mark truly loved to learn, and even more so, he loved to encourage others to be open to learning.

Mark Scarborough

I met Mark in the newsroom of a Central Wisconsin newspaper where we both worked as reporters. He covered education and politics, and I covered the city beat. Our desks faced one another in the spacious newsroom of a round, yes, round, building situated along the Wisconsin River. Throughout the day, he’d often say, “Hey, did you know….” and then share something he had just read or remembered or found fitting for whatever topic any of the reporters were researching and writing about. I can not recall the exact path our conversation took for Mark to mention JMU and the mineral museum, but I do remember him telling me that while he was visiting various historic Civil War sites and museums in the Eastern United States, he met a guy at a battlefield site, who knew the owner of an antique shop, who was friends with a professor at JMU who was helping to manage the growing mineral collection.

Mark, who was a historian, a guru of literature, and a fan of theater, proceeded to tell me how he ended up traveling to the campus to see minerals he didn’t know he even wanted to see when he woke that day. Of that conversation, what I remember most was how Mark described the people he met on the campus and specifically the museum; he said they were people he understood. Not because their interests were the same, but because they were passionate about amassing and analyzing knowledge, and even if that seemed odd to some, it was fine because it made them happy and fulfilled.

So, perhaps that’s the best way I can describe this former colleague, teacher, and kind soul, who first introduced me to the minerals at James Madison University. I can’t imagine a better way to remember the late Mark (Scarby) Scarborough and enjoy minerals on a Friday night during the days of social distancing.

To participate, visit the Loudoun County Public Library website to access the link to enjoy the virtual tour:


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