The Pilgrim Trust is funding the NCM ‘Life in the Old Cogs Yet’ over three years. The project aims to conserve and restore the museum’s large object collection with the help of on-site blacksmiths and conservation volunteers and museum staff.
The museum acquired the nationally important British Coal Collection in 1995 and it represents the most important aspects of the coal industry dating back to the late-eighteenth century, with a few earlier items from opencast workings. Once the large pieces of machinery are fully conserved they will then be displayed in appropriate locations on site. There are plans to return one of the car parks to its role as the ‘the pit yard’ with volunteers/guides on hand to explain and demonstrate. The work is very labour intensive as much of the equipment has suffered from exposure to wet conditions underground. So far restoration work has been carried out on a boom loader, haulage engine and a fire pump.
Visiting the museum includes putting on a hard hat and lamp, and descending 140 metres underground into old mine workings, following an ex-miner guide through dark tunnels to find out how and why coal was mined and moved to the surface. Above ground, stories of mining methods and machinery, and of miners and their families through the ages, are told through permanent displays and special exhibitions within buildings at Caphouse and the adjacent Hope Pit site. The blacksmith team has supported the museum’s educational programme with ‘KS2 Fire and Forces Science Investigation schools’ workshops, students working towards their Duke of Edinburgh awards, and Heritage Skills Taster Days to connect young people with industrial heritage and traditional skills. The project has added to the visitors’ experience as audiences can see coal being used combined with the metal work demonstrations offering them a further insight into the history of mining.
Images with kind permission of the National Coal Mining Museum