Computer screens with interactive film sequences. Graphics and projections. Multi-media shows demonstrating how fireproof bricks, iron and steel were manufactured. The first impressions make it unmistakably clear that the National Waterfront Museum in Swansea (Wales) prides itself on state-of-the-art computer technology.
This is all about Wales and how to recount its unique and complex industrial history in as exciting and up-to-date manner as possible. And it works! For the main actors are the visitors themselves.
Here you can be reduced to sudden poverty, exploited, have your health or even your life put at risk as a collier, and shortly afterwards bask in the fairy-tale wealth of an industrial tycoon.
In this way you are able to endure noise and filth, experience repression and working-class resistance and at the same time take a look behind the scenes of big business. It all results in a multi-facetted and astonishingly sharp picture of what life was once like in Wales and how the motor of industrial revolution has made Wales what it is today.
Nowadays Wales is generally recognized as the first industrial nation in the world. But what are the facts to support this assertion? You can find the answers to these and other similar questions in the National Waterfront Museum in Swansea. This attraction, which opened in 2005, uses every means at its disposal to illuminate the causes and effects of industrialization in Wales.
The external appearance of the museum is a mix of an historic brick dockside warehouse linked to a highly modern glass and steel building designed by award-winning architects Wilkinson, Eyre. Inside the spacious galleries, the whole range of Welsh industrial history is thematically arranged in 15 different exhibition areas.
Each specific theme has its own respective approach. If you want to find out why Wales was called the first industrial nation you can take a virtual look inside the dwellings, factories and hospitals of the time and consult public documents without having to wade through piles of dusty files. All you need is a healthy portion of curiosity and a few mouse clicks. It is the same with coal.
Here too visitors have access to interactive media which enable them to find out more about how coal came into being and the different ways in which it was mined. In addition they can follow the complicated network of global trading in this raw material on a movie screen. In this way a tour of the museum becomes an exciting sequence of novel experiences with ever new tasks and challenges.
Here is the human history of Welsh industry and innovation.