Landscape Legacies of Coal Project

The full project website can be accessed on the University of Stirling site, here.

The project has two distinctive but interlinked stands, the creation of the ‘coal app’, a series of co-produced and curated heritage walks, and a self-contained but underpinning research project exploring how the public experience, understand and value post-extractive landscapes.

coal mining landscapes

The ‘Coal App’

Catherine Mills (history), together with post and undergraduate students from the University are collaborating with local community groups and individuals, to produce an expanding series of curated heritage walks that narrate the story of Scottish coal mining through the medium of, and active engagement with, the disappearing landscape legacies, utilising a mix of industrial archaeology, historic maps plans and images and oral testimonies. The walks are available as a free to download mobile phone app.

You can download the ‘coal app’ for free here, or visit your mobile store and search for ‘Landscape Legacies of Coal’.

The aims of the ‘coal app’ project are to provide a dynamic record of the rapidly disappearing landscape features and industrial archaeology, and to increase local cultural understanding of mining heritage and of the social and economic significance of the coal industry.

The initiative offers a sustainable method of community co-production that offers a new medium for individuals and community groups to express issues around their heritage, a novel method of heritage recording and preservation and the creation of artistic artefacts.

The project was generously supported by, and owes it origins to a community heritage initiative by MacRobert Arts Centre that focused on Coal, delivered in autumn 2017. This consisted of a series of interlinked activities centred around a contemporary dance performance by Gary Clarke depicting the miners’ strike. An exhibition by Falkirk artist Philip Gurrey entitled undermined that depicted mining past present and future, community art and drama workshops and community screening of the film Still The Enemy Within.

The coal app is dedicated to Alastair Ross who passed away suddenly and never saw the project fully accomplished.

‘Value, Perceptions and Understanding’

This is a self-contained research project that parallels the ‘Coal App’ initiative and is led jointly by Catherine and Ian McIntosh (sociology).

Academia and policy makers primarily understand post-industrial and extractive landscapes in adverse terms, often within a social and economic policy context. These environments are degraded wastelands representing loss and social dislocation, strongly associated with health inequalities and deprivation particularly within an urban setting.

Less visible are the counter-views that suggest that these spaces offer urban wildscapes where flora and fauna can flourish, they also provide leisure and ‘play’ opportunities that are free of overt regulation and they have an affirmative role both in narrating past industrial glories and shaping communal memory, identity and place.

These studies are generally approached from a ‘top down’ perspective and often skewed by the researcher’s individual view point. Community collaboration on the coal app offered the opportunity for a ‘bottom up’ approach and to explore how the public value these spaces.

Traditional historical research, to create landscape biographies, combined with ethnographical approaches (on site observations, face to face interviews and an online questionnaire) captured public perception, understanding and use of these sites. Tentative analysis of the data suggests a more nuanced and complex mix of negative and positive values determined by individual site histories, notions of identity and personal memories. In terms of use, leisure pursuits were a clear component, together with space for both reflection and appreciation of nature.

Thank you to everyone who participated in the project and once the data is fully analysed, the results will be made available via the website.

Theme by the University of Stirling