Coal mines turned into culture mines is new business in Poland – by Louise Miner and Chris Burns (Euro News – October 7, 2019)

Katowice is a city that built itself on coal, turning the 18th-century village into an industrial powerhouse. Now it´s in the middle of another transformation: developing a cleaner, greener, more sustainable way of living and working. In this edition of Spotlight, we look at how this Polish city has turned coal mines into culture mines and new places to do business.

Silesian Museum – art and history

The centrepiece of this urban make-over is the Silesian Museum, built in a coal mine. Along with underground performances and a meeting space, the main hall is two football fields long, 14 metres deep. There are exhibitions about the region’s history, and on Polish art, including works by coal miners such as Jan Nowak.

Nowak said, “It’s amazing. I used to work here, with a shovel, with a hammer, and so on. And now my works are here in this museum, in this mine (Kopalny).”

For him, art was therapy for a tough, sometimes deadly job. “It was kind of like turning myself off from the stress, from work. It’s important that it doesn’t disappear, that it’s not forgotten. But something remains after my colleagues and after me.”

About a quarter-million people visit the museum annually – a powerful message for the Silesian Museum Director Alicja Knast, “This site has a lot of work memories, life memories, and we are trying not only to encapsulate them in our programming, but we try to somehow be very close to those whose lives were related to that particular site.”

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