La Motte d’Aveillons is a village in the department of Isère, which now has a population of less than 2,000 although around 3,000 people lived there during the first six decades of the twentieth century when anthracite mining, commemorated at La Mine Image was the principal local industry. The extraction of anthracite in the region began in the seventeenth century and concluded in the late 1990s, but workings at La Motte d’Aveillons commenced during the First Empire, and continued until 1956.
The project to establish a museum at the former mine began in 1986. The museum now prides itself in being a ‘musée souterrain’ (underground museum) which is justified since visitors are able to go on guided tours of a 250 m. section of the maze of underground workings that extend over 60 km. Here it is possible to learn about child labour and the use of animals for underground haulage. The headstock and other surface buildings of the mine are well-preserved. Here the museum shows films illustrating the history of mining, enhanced by recordings of former miners, and the mine’s lamp room, the social centre of the community, has been re-created.