Black Country Museum

On the 3rd March 2010 I went to visit the Black Country Museum, to see how accurate it was in portraying what life was like in the Industrial Revolution. The Black Country Museum is in Dudley and is based on top of an old mining site. The museum gets its name from all of the soot, blackness and ash which were let off from burning coal in the mines and factories in the Industrial Revolution. The soot settled on the houses making them black. This is why it’s called the Black Country.

The purpose of building the museum in 1975 was to make sure that future generations could get a representation of how life was like in the 19th century Industrial Revolution. The buildings in the Museum were taken down brick by brick from other areas in the Black Country and rebuilt in the museum. This means all of the buildings in the museum are the originals. I am going to set out my coursework in four different sections. The sections are shops, schools, mines and houses.

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I am going to do this by comparing how accurately the museum portrays the Industrial Revolution compared to sources and my own knowledge. The mine at the Black Country Museum was a replica of a 19th century drift mine. The mine is set in the time of the Industrial Revolution. To look at how accurately the museum portrays the Industrial Revolution I will compare the mine to sources and my own knowledge. At the mine in the Black Country Museum we saw that it was a dark place.

Before entering the mine we had to wear helmets, wearing this helmet was not an attribute which helped to aid my understanding of working life was in the mine because wearing the helmet the dangers which the miners faced when facing rock falls and head injuries could not be experienced by me because of the helmets. The same could not be said of the torches. Candles were used in the Industrial Revolution as shown in source 19. Today there are health and safety laws put in place which do not allow us to carry candles, however the museum has done its best by dimming the torches to the light of a candle.

This made the mine dark as described in source 18 “A black cavern of immense extent was before me, shown by a few glimmering lights. ” From my own knowledge I know workers worked in dark conditions and the only light they got was from their candles. So despite the laws put in place the element of darkness was felt and this gave me a good idea of what working down a mine was like in the Industrial Revolution. There were many injuries which took place in the Industrial Revolution such as Black lung, which was caused by the dirt and dust in the mine.

Due to health and safety laws these injuries and diseases could not be experienced by us. Also the poisonous gases which caused many deaths in the mine could not be experienced by us due to obvious health and safety issues. On the other hand in many places in the mine we had to bend down and were cramped as shown in source 19 which shows a miner working in very cramped conditions and source 20 “… only inches would separate the roof from your body. ” These were the conditions in which the miners worked in during the Industrial Revolution.

The cramped conditions were also one of the main reasons for why many miners ended up with injuries such as a broken spine, cracked ribs or mostly why they became hunchbacked even at a young age. The cramped conditions also caused death through broken windpipes or even suffocation. There was also no danger of the mine falling in or collapsing which was a relief but took away the danger element which miners in the Industrial Revolution would have faced. On the other hand the mannequins are realistic and show you how the workers worked.

They had Dudley accents in which Industrial Revolution workers spoke in. These were helpful as they helped you to understand the type of conditions the miners worked in the Industrial Revolution. In places the mannequins bend in certain ways to reach the coal like in source 19. The museum also tried to replicate the sound of the roof falling in which made many people jump. This was effective as it helped with our understanding as roof falls were common in the Industrial Revolution. In the museum there were no women mannequins.

This was an inaccuracy as at the time of the Industrial Revolution women did work as shown in source 17. Women and children opened doors for the miners and carried the coal. The museum does not show women mannequins as it was set slightly later then the Industrial Revolution after the 1842 women and children’s act which forbade the working down the mine. Overall I think the museum portrays the Industrial Revolution mine well as it agreed with most of the sources and my own knowledge despite the health and safety laws.

The museum tried their best to give us an idea of what life was like for miners and the conditions they worked in during the Industrial Revolution. The school we visited was called St. James. The school was an replica moved to the Black Country Museum. Before going inside the building we had to stand in two separate lines one for the boys and a separate line for the girls. Also we had to sit on benches at two different sides of the room as in source 3 depending on the gender. In the time of the Industrial Revolution on account of the Victorian church boys and girls were not meant to mix until the age of 18.

If they mixed before that they had to have a chaperone (someone to watch over them. ) This was an attribute which helped us to understand what school life was like in the Industrial Revolution. The teacher we had was the head teacher and was a woman. From my own knowledge I know that this was unusual in the time of the Industrial Revolution the head teachers were usually men. Women were allowed to teach when they were married but after marriage they had to leave their job. Caning was common.

We went through the act of checking hands; this was a common practise in schools at the time of the Industrial Revolution. If the nails or hands of a pupil were dirty they would get the cane. One of the main points of accuracy was the easel at the front of the classroom. This is shown in source 5. The backboard/easel was the only way the teacher could displays information to the class. We also wrote on slates, this was an accuracy. In source 3 and 5 we can see that children in the Industrial Revolution also wrote on slates.

The slates are also an inaccuracy as at the time of the Industrial Revolution the children wrote on big slates as they had no way to record their work for the day and so had to use a big slate so all of their work for the day could be recorded. The slates we used were smaller replicas of slates in the Industrial Revolution. We used smaller slates as the slates provided to the museum were made in a factory which only makes small slates. However writing on the slates gave us an insight into what it was like for pupils during the Industrial Revolution.

Another accuracy was that ladies entered and left the room first, they also got caned first. From my own information I know that this was the tradition at the time of the Industrial Revolution that as the Victorians believed that women were the gentler sex and were seen as the ones to be looked after. The benches were like those in source 5, they were uncomfortable, had wooden backs and the seats showed us that the children in the Industrial Revolution would have had an uncomfortable time sitting at school and they were not allowed to slouch or move around.

The school was an original but its windows were big unlike the windows in sources 3 and 5. The reason for the windows being big was not something the museum could help but have. The act which was passed in 1926 meant that all school windows had to be big. The school was closed after 1926 and so the windows were changed before the building became property of the museum. As the museum became owners of the building after 1926 they couldn’t help the fact that it has electrical lighting although the lighting helps visitors.

From my own knowledge I know that schools in the Industrial Revolution were dark and gloomy due to the small windows, unfortunately we could not experience this. In the school in the Industrial Revolution the children learnt the three R’s as part of a mixed gender morning class. As part of our experience we also got to experience this. When we learnt the alphabet we read it of the board as part of reading. This is also called rote repeating after the teacher. From my own knowledge I know that the main way a teacher taught their class in the Industrial Revolution was them repeating after him / her (rote. we wrote the alphabet which is the second R writing and then learnt the times tables as part of arithmetic. The children who went to the front of the class in order to be caned were not caned. This is because it is now against the law to cane a child. The museum tried to show the act of caning without performing it to aid our understanding of punishments in the Industrial Revolution. The school also had a fire/smoke alarm. This was something the museum could not help but put in due to health and safety requirements.

Overall I think that the museum did its best to portray an Industrial Revolution school despite the inaccuracies which it could not help but have. We saw many houses at the Black Country Museum and had a representation of both a rich and a poor person’s house from the Industrial Revolution. One of the first houses we visited was a back to back house. These were the houses factory and mine owners built for there workers to live in during the Industrial Revolution. The inhabitants of the back to back houses were poor with as many as six families living in each house.

The Black Country Museum had only four back to back houses. Originally there were forty-four back to back houses on the site were they moved the four to the Black Country Museum from but, there wasn’t enough room in the museum for all forty-four of them. The museum tried to give us a representation with four. In the Industrial Revolution the back to back houses would be in long rows with no gaps so a group of four houses does not give you a good representation or an impression of what living in a back to back house would be like in the Industrial Revolution.

As it says in source 6 “There are forty-four houses in the two rows. ” This shows that there were a lot of houses rather then just the four we saw at the museum. The street in between the houses was non-existent. In the Industrial Revolution the street was only up to seven feet wide. The street was a place were villagers threw their everyday rubbish as described in source 9 “into which all matter of refuse is thrown” in the Black Country Museum however there was no road in between the houses but the pathway was very clean and tidy.

This did not give us an accurate portrayal of how the streets were like but this was an inaccuracy that the Black Country Museum had no choice but to put in place because of the health and safety laws. The streets were clean because of the 1875 public health act which cleaned them up. Also the museum didn’t put rubbish on the streets because of the health regulations of today’s society and also so that disease would not be spread. Another inaccuracy was the sunlight.

In the Industrial Revolution the streets and houses would be dark this is because no sunlight could get into the narrow streets, so no light could get in the houses. This could not be replicated in the Black Country Museum because there were only four houses. We were not allowed upstairs in both the rich and the poor houses; this was because there was a lack of fire escapes. The museum did not add fire escapes as adding them would take away the authenticity of the buildings. By law no building can be visited unless it has a fire escape.

We also didn’t get the impression of overcrowding in the houses, from my own knowledge I know there were in one poor house five families one to each room with about ten children in each family. We didn’t get this impression at the museum as there were no people in the houses but the museum did try to give us the impression over crowdedness by taking the whole group into one room at the same time. There were no cellars at the Black Country Museum this is because the government act of 1842 which banned cellars.

In source 6 “… cellars are let off as separate dwellings… we could not these as the museum was set after the law banning cellars was set. One accuracy was the furniture in the rich cottage. In source 8 “they are stuffed with furniture. ” The source was proven to be right at the museum as the cottage had a lot of furniture including a bed, fireplace and a chest of drawers. Despite what the museum tried to do to portray the houses I didn’t get a good impression of what the houses were like on the outside but I got an impression of how they were organised and decorated on the inside which did accurately portray the conditions in the Industrial Revolution.

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