By Elizabeth Coss
Minerals, fossils and crystals fill the Clarence R. Smith Mineral Museum in Moser Hall at Youngstown State University.
Opening to the public in 2001, the museum’s collection is largely credited to its donors and father-son duo, Clarence R. Smith Sr. and Jr.
Before the museum opened, the Smith family collected a variety of minerals from around the world in the 1960s. Stefanie Hudzik, the museum specialist, explained the collection’s early history.
“Clarence [Smith] Sr. was a Youngstown native and came from very humble beginnings and built himself into a very accomplished businessman. It wasn’t until the last decade of his life that he really got into mineral collecting,” Hudzik said. “[Smith Sr.] had so many of them that he was able to display them at his personal property.”
Ikram Khawaja, a geology professor at YSU, took interest in the collection. The two shared common joy over minerals and Smith Sr. allowed specimens in the collection to be used for academic purposes.
“At the time, the geology program didn’t have hand specimens to pass around to students. Smith [Sr.] was like, ‘That’s so cool, go for it,’ and gave [Khawaja] a box of minerals, who took them to YSU and he presented with [the minerals].”
After Smith Sr.’s passing in the ‘70s, his son moved the collection to Adamas Jewelry and Gifts to be on display, but Khawaja stayed in touch with the family and convinced them to donate to the university by the 1990s.
During the summer of 2022, the collections ultra-violet display was upgraded and more artifacts were added, with newer additions coming from the museum’s storage.
Hudzik, who has been working with the museum since 2018, said she has been reorganizing the museum’s extended collection and wants more of the stored pieces out on display.
“I found a bunch of drawers with fluorescent minerals in them … a lot of them did have very bright fluorescents so we opened the case up and filled it to the brim up,” Hudzik said. “I would like to do that with a few more cases, our fossil collection, specifically. We have a lot more fossils in storage and I think it would be neat to put them out here.”
Coming to YSU in 2013 for her masters’ degree with a biology education focus, the history of the museum ties to Hudzik herself. She explained some of her own connections to the location.
“When I was a kid in the 90s, I saw this [collection] on display at Adamas [Jewelry and Gifts in Boardman, Ohio] … it’s kind of neat that I saw this as a kid and now we’ve come full circle and here I am,” Hudzik said. “It’s been really fun to bring [opportunities] in with my education background.”
The museum not only acts for viewing displays, but also serves YSU students. Departments and courses plan activities such as scavenger hunts to explore the collection of over 500 specimens.
Mason Santangelo, a sophomore communications major, said he was interested in the variety of international and local minerals.
“One thing I noticed right off the bat was the different minerals that [the museum has] from other countries like Mexico and Brazil. I was very surprised to see that, I thought it would just be minerals from around here,” Santangelo said.
The museum accepts both monetary donations as well as specimens and has a policy on its website.
Admission is free to the public and field trips are offered for the museum, but must be scheduled in advance on the museum’s website. The museum is open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Monday through Thursday. It is also open from noon to 6 p.m. on Fridays and from noon to 4 p.m. on Saturdays.