MissMiaw and I decided to take a trip to Summerlee, the Museum of Scottish Industrial Life. MissMiaw is a big fan of the place ever since she first went there as a wee girl. The museum stands on the site of the former Summerlee Iron works in Coatbridge. The museum has been operating since 1987, but has recently undergone a major refurbishment.

I was very impressed with the place.  The exibits all seem quite alive through the visible wear and tear of daily use. It’s not a dusty old gallery of relics either. A lot of the displays are interactive with videos and audio telling the history in the words of the people who lived it. The interviews with people that lived and worked in the Scotland’s industrial heartland are particularly interesting to listen to, and provide a lot of insight into the hard lives these people had.

Several large machines are on display. Each one still operating smoothly despite being over a hundred years old in some cases. The vast pit head winding gear that dominates the exhibition hall is particularly impressive as the pistons slide in and out along their greased guides and the huge cable drum spins around. It’s amazing to think that such a huge machine can continue to operate with the minimum of maintained even after all these decades. I would be very surprised if a modern version lasted that long.

After we had checked out all the exhibits we took a ride on the electric tram from the museum to the bottom of the hill where we found the most interesting part of the museum: the reconstructed miner’s rows. These are two rows of miner’s cottages, of the kind found throughout Scotland during the industrial revolution, with each one decked out for a particular era from the spartan single room dwelling of the 1880s to the more recognisably modern house of the 1960s. It’s amazing to think that entire families, often large families, lived their entire lives in one of those tiny single room dwellings without running water or even an inside toilet.

There’s also a coal mine that you can tour, but given how damp and nippy it was while we were there we thought it might be a bit dank and dingy. If we go back sometime in the summer I might brave it and go down for a look, but I might be a bit big for stooping in a pit.

I would highly recommend the museum to anyone that has an interest in the industrial past of Scotland, or even an interest in seeing how people used to live.

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