What role did coal play in your life?
This is the question posed by a new exhibition at Mansfield Museum which aims to explore coal, community and change in Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Yorkshire between 1965 and 2015.
The exhibit looks at stories, pictures and memories from the coal industry in Nottinghamshire and aims to explore the “language, thoughts and emotions” of miners and their families, not just during the 1984-85 strike, but in strikes in the 1970s and when the pits started to close during the 1990s.
Established by Nottingham Trent University in partnership with Global Heritage Fund, it will run at Mansfield Museum, on Leeming Street, until March 30, before moving to Chesterfield, Haworth and then the National Coal Mining Museum near Wakefield.
Travelling to each destination, it aims to collate memories and thoughts from each region, including differing perspectives from the 1984-85 miners’ strike, where it will collect surveys before presenting an overall conclusion later this year.
Natalie Braber, associate professor at Nottingham Trent University, said: “The exhibition looks at the long tradition of coal mining in the area from the perspective of people who lived through it.
“We want to get people involved by sharing photographs and stories from their experiences of the coal industry, and to challenge the idea that there is a set memory of coal mining in Nottinghamshire.
“The exhibition stems from 1965 when coal mining was at its peak, right through to the closure of Thoresby Colliery in 2015, and focuses on the different stories of everyone from the miners to women and children.
“The key thing is some people have memories of the mining industry that differ to other people’s stories of the same period, and we want to explore how and why people remember things differently.
“We don’t just want to portray one side of the coal industry, we want to trigger emotions from particular events and cross boundaries on what happened, how important people felt it was to them and what they think of it now.
“The area is steeped in coal heritage and would probably not be nearly as prosperous without it, and even as recently as 2015 when Thoresby Colliery closed it shows how etched into Nottinghamshire the industry was.
“This is why we want to keep the memory going for children who, when you speak to them, probably do not know a lot about it but should be taught about how vital it was to their town.
“The closure of the pits and the strikes is by no means a rosie period of the area’s heritage, but it is important to keep it alive.”
The exhibition, featuring images, videos, stories and interviews, is available free of charge at the Leeming Street museum.
It was organised by history lecturer David Amos, and designed by Paul Fillingham.