Britannia Mining Museum Launches their New Exhibition: “Copper: Bug Buster”

A sample of Copper Chalcopyrite ore at the Britannia Mine Museum.

The Britannia Mine Museum has launched a new educational temporary exhibit this summer exploring the antimicrobial properties of copper and how it has been used in the battle against superbugs and other diseases throughout history.

“Copper: Bug Buster” will be running until Sunday, September 13th inside the Museum’s Machine Shop. The exhibit delves into copper’s bug busting capabilities and the role it plays in medicine as an antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal metal. For over three thousand years, civilizations around the world have used copper and its minerals in health remedies. Could copper be used today to help in the battle against COVID-19? You’ll have to check out the exhibit yourself to see.

“We pride ourselves in providing visitors with insightful educational experiences and we felt it was important for this year’s temporary exhibit to reflect on the current COVID-19 pandemic given how much it has impacted our lives,” says Kirstin Clausen, Executive Director of the Britannia Mine Museum.

“Our Museum’s curator and her team assembled some fascinating facts and science about the antimicrobial properties of copper, and how the metal has played a role in medicine throughout history. We felt it was fitting since the Britannia Mine was a copper mine.”

Diane Mitchell, Curator of Education & Collections, with a sample of an oxidized native copper ore.

Copper has been used in health remedies by civilizations for millennia. The exhibit dives deeper into these interesting facts, including how:

  • In ancient Egypt, green mineral malachite (copper carbonate) was ground up and used as eye makeup, and supposedly also prevented eye infections.
  • Another treatment speaks of soldiers in battle having wounds sterilized with malachite.
  • The Incas disinfected wounds with gauze soaked in a copper sulphate solution.
  • The Aztecs gargled with a copper solution to treat sore throats.
  • In ancient Greece, they recorded the first use of copper bracelets for arthritis.
  • In ancient Rome, Pliny the Elder’s works recorded around one hundred and fifty copper-based remedies, and skin conditions and tonsillitis were said to be treated.
  • In modern times, research has shown that when a virus or bacteria lands on copper, the metal releases electrically charged particles, which destroys the cell membrane, then the DNA and RNA inside.
  • Copper has also been proven to kill Ebola, MRSA, E. coli and norovirus. A recent study found that SARS-CoV-2 – the virus causing COVID-19 – lasted only four hours on a copper surface compared with 48 hours on stainless steel or 72 hours on plastic. Could copper be useful in the fight against COVID-19?


Operational Details:

The Britannia Mine Museum is currently open to the public with appropriate COVID-19 safety measures and procedures in place. This includes enhanced staff training, opening with limited attendance and tour sizes, advanced ticketing and reservation required, accommodating appropriate physical distancing, and implementing site sanitation protocols.

Operating hours are 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. with limited guided tours and BOOM! showings in order to maintain proper physical distancing. Check the Museum’s website for specific tour times and to purchase tickets in advance.

The Museum is encouraging everyone to practice safe COVID-19 protocols including frequent hand washing, physical distancing and staying at home if you are sick.


About Britannia Mine Museum:

The Britannia Mine Museum is a mining legacy site and a vibrant, internationally recognized education and tourist destination located between Vancouver and Whistler on the Sea-to-Sky highway.

Established in 1974 as a non-profit organization, the museum celebrates the contributions of mining and minerals to society, the history of the storied Britannia Beach community and the ideas and practices of environmental renewal and sustainability. It is a National Historic Site encouraging mining awareness through entertaining, experiential education programs and exhibits, important historic collection preservation and insightful public engagement.

Today, the Museum is multi-award winning and highly regarded, consistently receiving 4.5 stars (out of a possible 5) on TripAdvisor. It provides visitors with a unique blend of experiences, serving as a tourist destination, an adventure attraction and an education venue that allows guests to leave with a better understanding of mining in BC: its past, present and future.

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