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Data Preservation

One responsibility of the Division of Geology and Mineral Resources (DGMR) is to serve as a repository for geologic and mineral resources information relevant to the Commmonwealth of Virginia. The Division (and its predecessors in name) has maintained valuable collections of geologic materials since the early 1900s. DGMR’s archives include extensive collections of rock, mineral, and fossil specimens, historic photographs, rock thin sections, results of petrographic analyses, geochemical laboratory results, reports on groundwater and mineral springs, historic and out-of-print publications, geophysical well logs, seismic lines, well cuttings, and drill cores.

Chrissi Wood-Smith (DGMR, Principal Investigator) and Grady Stewart (DGMR, Geologic Technician) retrieving old records from Austinville Limestone, Wythe County, Virginia

Chrissi Wood-Smith (DGMR) and Grady Stewart (DGMR)

Recognizing the need to both preserve these valuable collections and improve the ability of staff and customers to search for, cross-reference, and access the information they contain, DGMR implemented a long range data preservation plan in 2007, initially addressing 17 key collections. Since that time, the number of identified collections has grown to 23, containing approximately 104,000 individual items. With support from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) National Geological and Geophysical Data Preservation Program (NGGDPP), the Division began a comprehensive process of inventorying, cataloging and digitizing these collections to be made available to the public. As part of this work the collections were uploaded to a national repository known as the National Digital Catalog.

Current Work

For the 2018-2019 fiscal year, the National Geological and Geophysical Data Preservation Program (NGGDPP) grant supported DGMR in the inventory, cataloging, scanning and metadata creation of the New Jersey Zinc Collection. This mine was the oldest continuously operating mine in the United States upon its closure in 1981. While the company did not begin its operations until the early 1900s, the history of Austinville’s mineral wealth stretches back to the 1750’s.

New Jersey Zinc Collection,  Wythe County, Virginia

New Jersey Zinc Collection,
Wythe County, Virginia

In 1902, New Jersey Zinc’s mine was opened for business; it went on to operate for nearly 80 years, reaching its peak in the early 1970’s with 200 employees, a total revenue reaching $13.8 million, and having processed over 1.2 million tons of lead and zinc concentrates (Foley, 2002). Today, however, New Jersey Zinc’s Austinville mine’s legacy is the wealth of data it leaves behind. Over its 80 years of operation, New Jersey Zine recorded a myriad of scientific and historic data, including aerial photographs, cross sections, geologic maps, ore reserve estimates, mylar media, geologic engineering plans and even workers’ accident reports. In the 2018-2019 grant year, DGMR collected and transported nearly 5,550 records from the mine that are now curerntly being scanned for long-term preservation.

Environmental stakeholders, land use planners, and historians alike may utilize these records in construction, geologic research, and even as a means to contextualize the mine’s role in local and state history. DGMR’s work to preserve New Jersey Zinc’s records is ultimately an effort to preserve the historical significance of Wythe County’s lead mining while ensuring that the mine’s data may be utilized for future research.

Geologic Surface Map of 9th Level with Drill Log for A-607, Bertha Mineral Company, 1930

Geologic Surface Map of 9th Level with Drill Log for A-607, Bertha Mineral Company, 1930

Access DGMR's collections here.

For more information about this project, please contact:
Chrissi Wood-Smith

Selected References:

Foley, Nora, and Robert R. Seal II, 2002, A Geoenvironmental Lifecycle Model: The Austinville Platform Carbonate Deposit, Virginia, USGS Open-File report 02-195

Whisonant, Robert C., 1996, Geology and the Civil War in Southwestern Virginia: The Wythe County Lead Mines, Virginia Minerals Vol 42, No. 2.