New museum to celebrate Scottish mining landscapes

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Dr Catherine Mills with Lauren Arthur of The National Lottery Heritage Fund
Dr Catherine Mills with Lauren Arthur, Engagement Manager, The National Lottery Heritage Fund

The significance of coal in shaping Scotland’s past, present and future is to take centre stage of a new online museum.

Led by Dr Catherine Mills of the University of Stirling, the ‘Eco-Museum of Scottish Mining Landscapes’ – the first industrial eco-museum in Scotland – is being created thanks to funding from The National Lottery Heritage Fund. 

The virtual museum will focus on the Scottish Midland coalfield which spans an area from Fife to Ayrshire, with visitors able to download new cycling and walking routes created by local communities to both commemorate their mining history, heritage, and a sense of place. 

 

Dr Catherine Mills is photographed on campus
Dr Catherine Mills
Senior Lecturer in Environmental History
Given that many of our former miners are now in their seventh and eighth decades, there is an urgent need to capture the stories and link them to the landscape legacies of the industry before they are lost forever

Dr Mills, a senior lecturer in Environmental History, said: “Our local mining landscapes are generally unrecorded, often categorised as vacant and derelict land. Former colliery sites are at risk of redevelopment, this together with the demographic shifts from mining community to dormitory village, is resulting in a loss of local knowledge and memories.

"Given that many of our former miners are now in their seventh and eighth decades, there is an urgent need to capture the stories and link them to the landscape legacies of the industry before they are lost forever.”

The Eco-museum takes inspiration from an app previously created by Dr Mills, which enabled users to follow a series of co-produced and curated heritage walks, primarily across Stirling and Clackmannanshire, that narrated the story of Scottish coal through the rich and extensive medium of landscape and the lens of local communities.  

For this new project she has teamed up with the National Mining Museum Scotland, the Museum Friends, the Scottish Geological Trust, the Botanical Society of Britian and Ireland and community artist Yvonne Weighhand Lyle to create 15 new ‘landscape journeys’. 

To capture a wider audience, these routes will also include a focus on geology, ecology, artworks inspired by the local landscape and emphasise the role of former colliery sites in combatting the use of fossil fuels, through the redevelopment for geo-thermal, wind and solar farms and the forestation of bings for carbon sinks. 

Dr Mills added: “The project helps tell the story of de industrialisation in a more nuanced and affirmative manner to help challenge and reshape the often negative perceptions of the ‘pit village’ by focusing on the cultural and environmental landscape heritage and confronts the environmental and climate impacts of the historic use of coal with a focus on the black to green energy transitions.”

The project team, supported by University of Stirling student volunteers, will be running workshops from late spring to inspire and recruit local community groups to help identify and create these new routes.

The National Lottery Heritage Fund Director for Scotland, Caroline Clark, said: “The coalfields and mining industry shaped communities and landscapes across Scotland’s central belt. In the past, the focus has often been on the industrial blight left behind and I'm delighted that the Eco-Museum will bring a fresh focus to the powerful stories our mining heritage tells of people, industry and place.

“Once isolated mining communities with strong identities now find themselves absorbed into a developing commuter belt and this museum-without-walls offers an important opportunity for people to engage in new ways with the past of these towns and villages, and the landscapes their residents shaped.”   

The project will be officially launched at the National Mining Museum Scotland in late Spring.

The National Lottery Heritage Fund is supporting the Eco-Museum project with £63,784 thanks to National Lottery players.

Any community groups or individuals interested in participating in the project should contact Dr Catherine Mills: c.j.mills@stir.ac.uk