The coalfield in the département of Calvados in Normandy was one of the first to be exploited in France, and was productive over more than two centuries. Coal seams were discovered at Littry in 1741 and the Compagnie des Mines de Littry, formally established in 1747 produced fuel for potteries and glass works, for the boilers of ships and for gas works over the following century. There were 30 pits in the region in 1840, but in 1880 production ceased as a result of competition from British coal shipped to the ports of northern France. In 1940 the German occupying authorities ordered the resumption of production, and mines in the area continued to work until the early 1950s.
The museum, one of the first in France to be devoted to coal mining, dates from 1902, and provides a broad picture of the archaeology of the industry. It is housed at the site of the former Frandemiche coal mine. The excavated remains of the pit-head structures and mine shaft are on display. In the adjacent buildings are historical tools, a steam winding engine produced by the Périer brothers in 1800 and objects from coal mines in northern France and iron mines in Normandy. The museum also features a video documentary on the history of the Littry mine and a reconstructed underground gallery 70 m long. At the end of the museum is an impressive working model of the Bruay-en-Artois coal mine that was made for the Paris Universal Exhibition in 1900.