The deindustrialisation of Walbrzych (Poland) in the 1990s left a painful mark on the economic and social fabric of the city and its space. Negotiating the narrative of work as local heritage is difficult in such a context, as the society of the region is deeply traumatised and at the ... (Show more)
The deindustrialisation of Walbrzych (Poland) in the 1990s left a painful mark on the economic and social fabric of the city and its space. Negotiating the narrative of work as local heritage is difficult in such a context, as the society of the region is deeply traumatised and at the same time divided. The preserved material mining heritage in Walbrzych is mainly the buildings of the "Thorez" Coal Mine, revitalised in 2014: a complex of surface buildings and a residual underground infrastructure made available to visitors. Under the name of the "Old Mine" Science and Art Centre, several culture-forming institutions operate here. Among other things, the Centre conducts museum activities, but it is above all a platform that brings together initiatives, associations and individuals involved in establishing what the local mining heritage is.
Analysis of museum narratives, i.e.
a. the content of the permanent exhibition showing the functioning of the mine as a company, work in the mine and mining traditions
b. stories told by the guides - former employees of the mine
and interviews conducted with "Old Mine" employees (including expert interviews), interviews with activists from the miners' associations and participant observations have led, inter alia, to the conclusion that the process of heritagization of mining work in Walbrzych is largely bottom-up in nature, although obviously not universal. It is dominated by associations of miners. One of the main elements is the exclusion of women's work in the mining industry - which is the conclusion from the first part of the research.
Current fieldwork (2022) will complement analyses of museum representations by analyses of women's narratives. The interviewees are female department workers who had direct, physical contact with the mined raw material. Thus, their sensory experience was situated closest to what is considered 'miner's work' in the dominant heritage paradigm of coal mine work. They were workers in the processing plant, where the trolleys of coal went in a single transport line from underground. Like the miners' work underground, the work in the processing plant required a lot of physical effort, was noisy and dusty, and was only slightly automated.
Based on the above research and the ongoing fieldwork, these themes of the heritage of work as bodily experience will be discussed in the paper:
1. Modifying work tools to adapt them to one's own needs and relieve physical effort (in relation also to established factory norms); Narratives about the above in relation to museum representation (the objects on exhibits)
2. The post-industrial landscape (heaps, infrastructure) – in the workers’ narratives and in museum representations
3. The problem "How to tell the visitors about it?" - that troubles former mine workers (based on interviews with guides of “Old Mine” and visitors research) (Show less)