Since the Mijnmuseum opened in 2005, it has helped the local community and the public to better understand the history of mining in Limburg. At the same time, the mining history of Limburg has always been, to some extent, inseparable from the people. For example, museum staff who managed the mining heritage, former miners who used the mining objects, and creators who participated in creating digital mining objects.
In this section, you can find people’s narration of the mining culture, the place Limburg, and their personal stories!
Simone Claessens is the curator of the Nederlands Mijnmuseum since 2016. As a curator, she has been deeply involved with the museum as well as the mining culture in Heerlen. For her, the most interesting thing to work in the museum is to communicate with the older miners. She is fond of listening to their personal stories because “all those stories are human, not like what we learn from books.”
"To understand the mining history of Heerlen is to understand who you are!" Simone.The curator of the Nederlands Mijnmuseum.
Fons Bus is a volunteer at the Nederlands Mijnmuseum since September 2019. He has a strong connection to the city Maastricht, where he and his parents lived and grew up. In his youth, he moved to Kerkrade and later lived in Heerlen. He witnessed the most prosperous period of Heerlen. However, he also saw Heerlen fall into a challenging period between the 1960s and the 1990s. However, Heerlen has always been a beautiful place for him. He is proud of the mining culture, as well as the people who contributed to the mining industry in this region. As he says, “the mining is our history, our heritage”.
“You can say in the ugliness of Heerlen lays her beauty.” Fons.The volunteer of the Nederlands Mijnmuseum.
A Former Miner
Hans te Wiele is an 84-year-old former miner who came to the Oranje-Nassau mines in January 1954. He started as a “sleper” in charge of transporting the wagons loaded with coal or stones to the main galleries. He worked his way up to become a team leader. He began with being in charge of three people and after some time, this number grew to about 25-30 people. As a team leader, Hans says he was responsible for “managing people’s shifts as well as the safety and health of the workers’’. In his job, Hans explains that it was important to pair the new mine workers with other experienced workers who would understand one another and be able to learn from one another.
“While the mining company was performance oriented, safety in the mines was a factor we never forgot.” Hans.A former miner in the netherlands
A Former Miner
Nico Maar, now 76 years old, was a former electrician and mechanic at the Oranje-Nassau mines. His job entailed maintenance of the electrical equipment, emergency reparations and towards the end of his career, he became a telephone operator. He began working at the age of 16 in the Oranje-Nassau II mine but later transferred to the Oranje-Nassau I mine in 1959. He was able to balance out his educational requirements by working four days in the mine and completing one day a week of schooling/tutoring. When the mines closed, his experience as a telephone operator paid off and was successfully able to be employed by a Dutch telecommunication company (KPN). His memories and experiences from working in the mines is something he will never forget and will treasure for the rest of his life.
“I have no regrets about choosing to work in the mines… I had a delightful time there and if I could back in time and do it again, I would!” Nico.A former miner in the Netherlands.
Akvilė V. comes from Lithuania and is a student at Maastricht University. As a creator of the 3D digital collection, she perceives mining heritage as the construct of social value and identity within the local community of Heerlen. She says that many residents have personal connections with mining culture: ‘They’ve heard stories when they were younger, many of them had or have relatives who worked in this field’. Hence, Akvilė believes that those mines were not simply a workplace in the past; they also carry the testimonies of people’s memory and narrative in the present.
“The digital keeps history alive, and everyone can hear, see, experience it no matter where or when.” Akvilė V.A creator of the 3D collection of the Nederlands Mijnmuseum.
Paulo De Queiroz Golovattei comes from Brazil and is a student at Maastricht University. Since he first visited the Mijnmuseum, he was interested in telling the audience stories on the miners that are beyond their work underground. For him, miners’ lives were not limited to their work shifts and they spent their spare time strengthening their bonds within their communities. “While some enjoyed watching their favorite muziekkorps in the church or in the casino, others relished their weekly football match with coworkers”, Paulo said. Through his engagement with the Mijnmuseum, the stories of former miners, and the region Limburg, he believes that for each miner covered in coal there is a set of cultures, struggles, passions, and dreams.
“The project is a way to honor the people who dedicated their lives to the underground!” Paulo.A creator of the 3D collection of the Nederlands Mijnmuseum.