Cash at Old Coalface as Big Pit Wins Museum of the Year

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), May 27, 2005 | Go to article overview

Cash at Old Coalface as Big Pit Wins Museum of the Year


Byline: By KAREN PRICE Western Mail

Former mine turned visitor attraction lands pounds 100,000 prize BIG PIT will mine a seam of celebration celebrating today (FRI) after winning the pounds 100,000 Gulbenkian Prize for Museum of the Year, the UKAEs largest arts award. The former Gwent South Wales pit, which once produced 100,000 tonnes of coal a year and is now staffed by ex-miners, beat off competition from three other British museums to win the coveted prize.

The money will be used to build a new education centre on the museumAEs site in Blaenavon.

The award caps off a successful period for the venue, which opened in 1983 and became part of the National Museums and Galleries of Wales four years ago.

Last year it completed a pounds 7m redevelopment and achieved record visitor figures, welcoming 141,000 through its doors.

Museum staff received their award during a ceremony in London last night (THURS).

oAfter such a successful year, to now have museum professionals say that Big Pit is doing everything right is priceless,o said Kathryn Stowers, the museumAEs marketing and press officer.

oWe are hoping to use the prize money to extend our educational facilities and will looking at building a new education room on the site which schools can use when they visit.

oAbout 40% of our visitors are school parties.o

Big Pit, which is part of the Blaenavon world heritage site and now has free admissions, provides an underground tour where visitors are led by miners down the 300ft (91m) mine shaft into the dark, dank subterranean passageways, past the pit poniesAE stables and along the tracks of the coal trucks.

Since the redevelopment, above the ground, all the colliery buildings, including the pithead baths, the winding engine house and blacksmithAEs workshop, have been restored and brought back to life with the sounds of the miners at work echoing from the past.

The pithead baths u built as recently as 1939 and which were the first baths the miners had on the site u house the main exhibition.

This tells the story not only of the coal mines themselves, but of the communities that grew around the industry from the earliest days to the minersAE strikes and pit closures of the 1980s.

The Gulbenkian judges were unanimous in their praise of BlaenavonAEs Big Pit. They say that in recounting the story of the people of the South Wales coalfield in a simple yet captivating way, it keeps the story of British coal alive. …

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