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Exploring the Social Legacy of Coal at the National Mining Museums of Great Britain

Authors: William Price*, Ball State University
Topics: Tourism Geography, Cultural Geography, Natural Resources
Keywords: Industrial Heritage, Industrial Tourism, Great Britain, Coal, Interpretation
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

National mining museums in England, Scotland, and Wales tell the stories of the owners, miners, and the wider societies that comprised, and were shaped by, the coal mining industry, serving as a vital repository of place memory. The Big Pit National Coal Museum, the National Coal Mining Museum for England, and the National Mining Museum Scotland are all housed at former working collieries, incorporate buildings and machinery associated with the mining process, include permanent and rotating exhibitions, employ former miners as tour guides, and, in two cases, offer underground tours into the closed mines. As flagship mining attractions in Great Britain, these museums play a significant role in forming domestic and international visitor knowledge about coal mining’s heritage. Perspectives on coal have taken on increased importance in recent years, with contrasting calls for renewed coal extraction to alleviate poverty in former mining communities and a move away from reliance on fossil fuels in light of global climate change. Using a discourse analysis methodology, this research explores the representation of mining impacts on British communities as presented across the interpretive content of these three national museums. Similarities and differences in discussions of community development, socioeconomic influences, union activity, and postindustrial adaptations are considered, accompanied by a reflection on the implications for wider discussions concerning the role of coal in the future.

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