Limestone has been extracted from the hills around Lengefeld, 23 km south-east of Chemnitz, since the 16th century. The burning of limestone to make lime ceased in the area in 1975, although cement is still made by Geomin Erzgebirgische Kalkwerk GmbH.
The museum opened in 1986 and includes indoor displays in a former fuel store, and an extensive area of old quarries including kilns of several types and crushing plant. The outstanding structures are three pyramidal Rumford lime kilns built between 1818 and 1835, that take their name from Benjamin Thompson Rumford (or Sir Benjamin Thompson, 1753-1814), an American who remained loyal to Britain during the War of Independence and subsequently settled in Bavaria, where he laid out the English Gardens in Munich. Rumford was an accomplished scientist with a particular interest in latent heat, and he designed some of the first successful kilns that were continuous rather than intermittent in their operation.
The museum is also concerned with the geology and the natural history of the quarries, where many varieties of orchid can be seen in the summer months. Some metallic ores, notably those of silver and iron, were extracted from the workings. The last iron ore was mined in 1851, but some bismuth was worked in the years after the Second World War. The underground workings were used during the war for the storage of art treasures from Dresden.