A new exhibition on the lives of Victorian lead miners signals the start of a the major overhaul of a North East museum.
Visitors to Killhope: the North of England Lead Mining Museum can now step inside a miner’s kitchen, explore a mine agent’s drawing room and even visit a country show.
The £70,000 exhibition marks the completion of the first stage of the museum’s Rediscover Killhope project.
The project, which is being funded through a £428,000 award from the Heritage Lottery Fund, will see further major changes over the coming months.
Mike Boase, Killhope manager, said: “We are absolutely thrilled with the new-look display area. The change really is dramatic and anyone who has visited Killhope before will be amazed at the difference.
“Everything is presented with teasing facts, intriguing sounds and scrolling Victorian photographs. There is so much to entertain and inform.
“What is really exciting for us is that this is just the start of a major programme of changes and improvements at Killhope, which are being delivered through our Rediscover Killhope project.”
Killhope was one of the most productive lead mines in England in the late 1800s so the exhibition opens with a video exploring minerals and their industrial uses.
The Led Here By Lead section also explains why it was the specific geology of the area that led to people choosing to settle at the top end of Weardale.
Visitors then make their way into a miner’s kitchen, where items reflecting the everyday life of Victorian miners, who usually combined their work underground with farming, are on display.
The mine manager’s drawing room features mineral collections, surveying equipment and scientific treatises, while the country show area offers an insight into the arts and crafts that occupied the miners during their spare time.
Killhope’s famous spar minerals box collection is also on show including the Eggleston spar box, a two metre tall fantastical display of minerals assembled into a miniature cavern.
The museum also has a new space for school parties, where its collection of Victorian toys and games is on display.
The Rediscover Killhope project will also see the renovation of the museum’s Buddle House to provide an all-weather exhibition and activity space and the installation of new play equipment to help younger visitors understand more about Killhope’s heritage.