Digging Deep, Coal Miners of African Caribbean Heritage presents recently unearthed stories and memories of former coal miners of Black and African-Caribbean heritage within UK mining history. Visitors to the exhibition will be able to experience 27 different accounts of life in the mines.
The exhibition forms part of the Black Miners Museum Project – led by Nottingham News Centre CIC – which aims to grow lasting partnerships with mining museums across the UK by celebrating and remembering coal miners of Black and African-Caribbean heritage, as well as sharing collections, research and resources to educate and to inform.
Norma Gregory, historian and curator of Digging Deep said: “In Britain’s post-war years when industry was heavily affected by labour shortages, lots of young men from the commonwealth and beyond travelled to the UK seeking new employment opportunities. Many found jobs in collieries up and down the country and soon settled into mining communities. It was a tough job but they succeeded, through resilience and a commitment to help.
“The Black Miners Museum Project and the Digging Deep exhibition are about ensuring diverse mining stories are heard and shared, and their contribution to UK mining is remembered for the future.”
The exhibition at Woodhorn Museum features film, photography and original artwork. Visitors will also understand more of the miners’ home lives, seeing the kind of clothes they wore, and the ornaments and keepsakes they cherished that reminded them of home.
The Black Miners Museum Project has collected over 240 known names of black miners and their collieries, and interviewed over 60 surviving former miners, including Abiodun MacDonald Williams (aka Mac) who worked as the Colliery Ventilation Officer at Dawdon Colliery in County Durham for 11 years. His story forms part of the exhibition at Woodhorn Museum.
Abiodun said: “In 1961 I worked as an Assistant Ventilation Officer at Dawdon Colliery, Seaham, and I was encouraged to take further education. I went to Durham Technical College and qualified to be a Ventilation Officer. In 1968, I was appointed the Colliery Ventilation Officer.”
Rowan Brown, Chief Executive of Museums Northumberland, said: “Woodhorn Museum is one of six UK museums involved in The Black Miners Museum Project.
“This fascinating exhibition, that we’re presenting to honour Black History Month, is an opportunity for people to learn about the experiences of former coal miners of African Caribbean heritage; some of whom lived and worked in the North East.
“It is a great opportunity to collect visitors’ stories and improve understanding about the migration stories and the diversity that existed in UK mining. Sadly, we have scant evidence of these stories at Museums Northumberland, so we are using this incredible opportunity to engage in dialogue with our communities and discover the hidden histories in our midst.”
Anyone that would like to share a memory or story for the collections at Woodhorn Museum can get in touch with the team by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
‘Digging Deep, Coal Miners of African Caribbean Heritage’ opens at Woodhorn Museum on Saturday 03 October and runs until Sunday 01 November 2020.
Entry to Woodhorn Museum is free for children aged 0-16. Entry for adults is £7 (concessions available). Visitors pay once and benefit from unlimited visits for 12 months from the date of issue. Annual Passes can be bought online in advance of visiting.
Digging Deep is part of the Black Miners Museum Project and supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund Midlands & East; Communities Inc. Nottingham; the National Coal Mining Museum for England; and The Voice Newspaper, London; and other partners.
For more information about the Black Miners Museum Project, visit www.blackcoalminers.com.
For more information about Woodhorn Museum, visit www.museumsnorthumberland.org.uk