Why do people become interested in geology?
What inspired your interest in rocks, minerals, or fossils?
The Parrsboro Rock Shop Project seeks to develop an exhibit that pays tribute to Eldon George and the Parrsboro Rock and Mineral Shop. The ParrsboroRocks.ca website shares information about the project, and provides some insights as the project develops. This article is about how Eldon George, the Parrsboro Rock Shop and the Nova Scotia Gem and MIneral Show have inspired a generation of geologists in Atlantic Canada.
Birth of Geotourism
In tracing the history of Eldon George’s life, it becomes clear that he lived during a very special time. Post World War II was a time of healing and recovery. When Eldon was born in Parrsboro in 1931, the coal mines of Springhill provided coal shipments by rail, and ships loaded the coal to carry it to Saint John and down the coast to the United States. The end of shipping from Parrsboro Harbour occurred following the Springhill mines disasters in 1956 and 1958, and the end of the local coal production.
By good fortune, in the middle of this Springhill mine disasters, the National Geographic published the “Great Tides of Fundy” article in August 1957. This article included Eldon several photos of Eldon George and his brother Willie, and Parrsboro was literally on the map.
The National Geographic article in 1957 could be seen as the start of a new geotourism identity for the Parrsboro Shore. As the coal mines closed, a new awareness was developing. The Parrsboro Shore of the Bay of Fundy was a geological wonderland.
A Geological Community
There were other important events occurring at this time. In 1956, Dr. Donald Baird met Eldon George for the first time. A profound friendship would develop between this university academic researcher and Eldon as a self-educated private collector. Eldon is an excellent judge of character, and Don made Eldon feel at ease, and respected him for his knowledge of local geology. Don and Eldon also shared a powerful skill of observation in the field. This friendship between Eldon and Donald Baird would remain an important factor throughout Eldon’s life.
In 1957, Eldon played a role as a founding member of the Nova Scotia Mineral and Gem Society. Through articles in Rocks & Minerals Magazine and other similar journals, it is possible to trace the key members of the community of people at this time who were interested in collecting minerals and developing jewelry.
The Nova Scotia Museum was also important, as Eldon’s boyhood dream was to work at a Museum. Eldon recognized the value of Museums for research and public education. Museums were also important in shaping Eldon’s attitudes about the importance of fossils for science, the need for careful and accurate documentation, and a value of Museums for education. Eldon attained his dream and worked at the Nova Scotia Museum for a short time from 1965-1966.
Another important factor for the support of the geological community in Nova Scotia has been the establishment of a “community of practice” related to Nova Scotia’s geology community and interested public. Eldon George, along with Kerwin Davison and Marilyn Smith, organized the first Parrsboro Rockhound Roundup in 1966. This first meeting attracted numerous collectors, and was an rapid success. A short time after the National Geographic article, this show helped attract an audience and community together once a year.
The Rockhound Roundup continued to grow and included participation from across the local geological community. Many private collectors attended these first Rockhound Roundups, which were held on the third weekend of August. The event also attracted many individuals from of the general public, people curious to learn about and buy rocks, minerals and fossils. There were also professional geologists attending the event, geologists from the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources, the Atlantic Geoscience Society, and the Canadian Geological Survey in Halifax. The many local university geology departments also had professors and students visiting the shows. In this way, the Gem and Mineral Show established a network for the regional geological community.
Inspiring a New Generation
In looking at the larger context of Eldon’s accomplishments, the development of the Rockhound Roundup may be one of the most important activities that fostered the geological community in Nova Scotia. The event continues today and is now known as the Nova Scotia Gem and Mineral Show.
There were thousands of people who visited the Parrsboro Rock and Mineral Shop, and after speaking to Eldon, many became interested in rocks and geology. There are stories and Memories that have been shared on this website. However, there are many thousands who attended the Rockhound Roundup – Nova Scotia Gem and Mineral Show and became inspired to learn more.
The Gem and Mineral Show inspired people to become curious about geology. Visitors spoke to private collectors, and friendly university professors. They saw beautiful minerals and learned also about their special features. A rich community developed around the Nova Scotia Gem and Mineral Show. This community that comes together once a year has inspired generations of youth to learn more about geology. Many of these curious youth are now working geologists. Perhaps you are one?
Did you become inspired to learn more about geology at the Gem and Mineral Show?
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