Cornell established a Geology Department before any other college in Iowa. The building was named for Dr. William Harmon Norton, Cornell's first geology professor and curator of its original museum. It was built in the design of a Carnegie Library such as can be found in towns across America.
The Russell and Elizabeth Anderson Museum, on all three floors of the building, is open free of charge to the public. An extensive collection of geological books, maps and periodicals and more than 20,000 specimens of rocks, minerals and fossils are stored here.