Dear admirers of mining heritage from all over the world!
Yes, from all over the world because, after all, mining in space is also our future past, which our children's children will one day protect as mining heritage. But today, for the time being, let us focus on protecting our human past, centred in the mining heritage, and also on protecting our present, which we will preserve for future generations.
The International Conference of Mining and Underground Museums will start soon, on 22 May 2023. This will be the second conference in the ICMUM series. Its date was planned for 2021, but the COVID-19 pandemic forced a delay and a postponement of 2 years. This time, the proceedings will take place in the historic Wieliczka salt mine and the historic Zabrze coal mines.
The previous conference, held in Wieliczka and Bochnia in 2018, was very well received by international mining community. It was attended by more than 100 participants from 18 countries. They represented underground museums from a variety of mines: salt, coal, silver and gold, copper, iron, mercury, zinc and lead and slate. In line with the event's motto "Let's meet and exchange experiences!", the participants shared their practical knowledge of how to protect and make mining heritage accessible to visitors. This motto is of course still relevant! However, we would also like to draw attention to the problem of today's perception and therefore presentation of mining heritage. We therefore propose that the conference motto should be "Mining Heritage = Human Heritage". This statement seems self-evident as mining has been, is and will continue to be a very important factor in the development of civilisation, without which there would be no successive stages of this development: the Bronze Age, the Iron Age, the Industrial Revolution or the development of modern technologies based on rare earths. Millions of mine visitors around the world (the numbers are increasing every year) need to be presented with a true narrative of the crucial role of mining in human history - we want this, during the conference, to be one of the topics of our deliberations. Let us discuss how the mining heritage can be presented in a comprehensive way that also takes into account its negative impacts. Negative effects that are the salacious price for achieving progress and that are crucial for the perception of this heritage by the general public.
The preservation of technical monuments and the industrial heritage as a whole requires a specific approach and the specialised knowledge necessary to understand, among other things, the development of technological thought and, consequently, the development of our human civilisation. The interest in industrial heritage and the associated development of tourism, presents our environment with a number of new challenges. What and how to protect? How to value and how to communicate knowledge about this aspect of human development in an attractive but truthful way? Therefore, a proper narrative is necessary so that visitors can understand historical processes. This is important in view of the currently fashionable tendency to reinterpret the history of the development of civilisation, according to which industry, and mining in particular, is often seen as 'evil itself.
"Connecting people" - this slogan can certainly be applied to the idea of this meeting. Our conference is an opportunity to confront academics - historians of mining heritage - with representatives of mining supervision and, above all, practitioners who operate underground museums - tourist routes in mines. It is the operators of these sites who directly protect and make available to the public the former workings, the infrastructure preserved on the surface, and often present the wider, social aspect of social life around the mine.
I hope this will be an opportunity to broaden horizons, to learn about the diversity of mining sites, their specificities and problems. Let's discuss which solutions work and which don't, how to avoid mistakes and what to learn from. How do you create your own uniqueness? What can be done to achieve success?
Among the conference participants there will also be representatives of mining sites inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. There will certainly be time for an exchange of information on the management of such sites. Another important topic will be the possibilities of preserving the authenticity of former mines, while maintaining maximum safety for visitors. Where are the limits of adapting mines for tourism purposes? What should be protected with a view to preserving the mining heritage as a monument? What can be used for purely commercial purposes for entertainment, spas, science and research centres or, finally, warehouses. What do we want to preserve and how can we conserve the wide-ranging equipment and infrastructure of former mines? I hope that a concrete result of these discussions and exchanges of experience will be the formulation, within the next few years, of an "International Catalogue of the Best Practices in the Creation and Operation of Mining Museums and Mining Tourist Routes", which will become a guide for those managing mines open to the public.
On behalf of the Cracow Saltworks Museum in Wieliczka and the co-organisers,
I would like to invite you to participate in the conference. See you in Wieliczka and Zabrze!
Director of the Cracow Saltworks Museum Wieliczka,
Chairman of the Organising Committee