What a drudgery: Up to three tons of coal per shift once were hauled by one miner's power only along the galleries of the Wałbrzych coal field. Horse-drawn carts occurred not before the 1820s, eventually followed by tipper trucks only a decade later. Today a cutting-edge Science and Art Centre recalls the time when Wałbrzych (formerly called Waldenburg) used to rank first among the mining works in Lower Silesia. The title of the multicultural theme park, "Old Mine", goes back to the former "Julia" coal mine operating here until 1996. Its elaborately restored buildings house, amongst others, a multimedia museum illustrating the history of the Lower Silesian coal industry. The exhibits feature mining equipment and machines as well as the living conditions of the miners and their families. Further displays address the local tradition of chinaware manufacture and environmental concerns. Other colliery buildings instead focus on bridging past and present. The old boiler house, for instance, exhibits contemporary Polish art whereas the former pithead baths accommodate the municipal centre for cultural heritage and Wałbrzych's dance company and choral group.
According to historical sources Wałbrzych witnessed coal mining activities at least since 1536, even though they remain marginal at the beginning. In those days the small town is called Waldenburg and forms part of the Kingdom of Bohemia. In the 17th and 18th centuries the place is reknown for its linen trade and cloth-making industry. Actually in 1818 the first power loom of mainland Europe was installed here.
The era of coal mining begins in the 19th century. Around 1800 there are already 50 pits scattered across the mountainous region of Waldenburg, employing more than 1.000 miners with an output of approximately 130.000 tons per year. This results in a comprehensive industrialisation focussing on chemical plants, steelworks and engineering works. Furthermore Waldenburg becomes the centre of Silesian chinaware industry. In 1834 it boasts the first coal-fired china factory worldwide, and with Krister it attracts a company that is going to be one of the most important porcelain manufacturers in Europe producing under the label "Krzysztof" since the 1950s. Last but not least, the beginning of industrial-scale mining and the linking of the coal field to the national rail network entails a significant rise of Waldenburg's population, changing from 1.540 in 1799 to more than 15.000 one century later.
After the end of World War II Wałbrzych, now a Polish town, still relies on coal mining. It's only the country's democratic transformation in 1989 that puts an end to this industry. The "Julia" coal mine stops operations in 1996 – after 226 years of coal production! Soon afterwards it is decided to convert the site into a museum. On 9th November 2014, the Old Mine Science and Art Centre opens for the first time. It deliberately applies an approach connecting the past and present. The historical perspective is illustrated by the museum and its narrative of Wałbrzych's fascinating economic history. Yet art facilities and cultural institutions make the Old Mine a lively forum of meeting and discussion.
|Recommended duration of visit:||4 Hours|
|Duration of a guided tour:||120 Minutes|
|Access for persons with disabilities:||Available|
|Infrastructure for children:|
|Visitor centre on site:||yes|
|Gift and book shop on site:||yes|
daily 10am-6pm, last admission 4pm