Featured in the new

Germinal

series

, broadcast on Salto, the mining basin of the North and Pas-de-Calais has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2012. Virginie Malolepszy, director of the archives of the historic mining center near de Douai, evokes for 20 Minutes this treasure of humanity.

You worked on the inscription of the mining basin in the world heritage of Unesco.

How essential was this?

The goal was to deliver a universal witness.

Mines are present all over the world, they are part of a collective history.

The basin is classified in a particular category, that of a living evolutionary heritage: we are in a landscape that has changed by human action, a territory that has been built over 270 years of coal mining. [from 1720 to 1990].

The inheritance is very important.

Concretely, what heritage are we talking about when we talk about coal mines?

There are several of them !

First of all, there is a technical heritage, with the exploitation of the pits, its methods, its tools.

There is also an architectural heritage, with the infrastructures linked to men, in particular the mining habitat.

Finally, social heritage: traditions, leisure, health, education… The UNESCO-listed perimeter does not cover the entire mining basin: it measures 120 km long and 6 to 12 km wide.

Is it also all this history transmitted by the Historic Mining Center, of which you manage the archives?

Yes, in 1984, almost twenty years before the World Heritage listing, and even before the closing of the last extraction shaft on December 21, 1990, the center opened its doors to the public.

It is at the same time a museum, an archive center and a center of scientific culture of energy.

It is an opportunity for visitors [150,000 each year] to be immersed in a mining site and in the life of miners, to discover what coal is and to put the question of coal back at the heart of energies.

How do you manage to make this museum attractive despite its heavy past?

One can imagine that the mine is a subject which does not attract, but it is wrong.

Many come to seek to understand, or to find their roots.

The mine is our history, the history of Nord Pas-de-Calais but also of France.

The coal industry took part in the reconstruction of France after the two wars.

We also come there to check if what we are saying is true as it may seem incredible.

This was the case after the release of the film

Germinal

 : huge queues, we felt that people needed to go back to their past.

Lewarde historic mining center, Nord-Pas de Calais mining museum, archives and scientific culture center for energy, Delloye pit, rue d'Erchin 59287 Lewarde, Tel: 03 27 95 82 82, chm -lewarde.com.

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