The Colorado School of Mines Geology Museum has been working on restoring six murals dating back to the 1930s, after the museum suffered ceiling damage from heavy rains in Sept. 2013. Museum director, Bruce Geller, collaborated with a team of art conservators, framers, construction workers and an art photographer over the past year in order to display the newly refurbished paintings at the museum’s open house Sept. 10.
“It’s the first thing you see when you walk in the room,” Geller said. “Your eyes are drawn right to them. They are lower on the wall, so you see their size and how incredible the detail is for something that big. The colors are more vibrant because they cleaned off all the surface dirt.”
The murals range in size from 7 by 5 feet to 7 by 11 feet, and the larger ones weigh around 150 pounds. New LED lights were installed above the paintings to bring out their colors.
American painter Irwin Hoffman often accompanied his two brothers, who were mining engineers, on trips to mining camps in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. His knowledge of mining is portrayed in these murals, which he painted for the Golden Gate International Exposition in San Francisco in 1939.
In 1940, Mr. and Mrs. Barney Whatley donated Hoffman’s murals to Mines. A year later, The Denver Post published a photo of former Mines president Melville Coolbaugh and Hoffman, when he visited campus to view his paintings that were displayed in Berthoud Hall. In 1988, the murals were moved to the National Mining Hall of Fame until they were transferred to the Geology Museum in 2003.
The six murals showcase the history of mining from the Paleolithic era to the 1930s:
- Earliest developments in mining
- Mining in metallurgy in early Egypt
- Greek and Roman mining
- 20th century surface mining
- 20th century mining and reduction activities
- What man creates with metals
Some of Hoffman’s smaller paintings and sculptures can be viewed in the Arthur Lakes Library.