The Dutch Mining Museum is now housed in a former department store

The Dutch Mining Museum (Nederlands Mijnmuseum) re-opened in May this year (2022) in the old Kneepkens department store in Heerlen, south Netherlands.

Elegant old winding shaft building
The winding house at Oranje Nassau I
(Photo: Mosbatho, CC BY 4.0)

Heerlen is in that panhandle that extends south to Maastricht along the Meuse between Belgium and Germany, and includes the Limburg region, famous for its coal industry in all three countries. The coal industry died out during the 60s &early 70s, and the Dutch Mining Museum was first established in Shaft II of the Oranje Nassau I mine (a UNESCO Heritage site) in Heerlen, which was the last Dutch coal mine to close in 1974.

The Oranje Nassau I mine with its shaft hall, winding tower and winding machine house, is temporarily closed now, but it remains a part of the museum.

So how does a former department store (another listed building) work as a mine museum?

Well, it’s an interesting concept. The museum turned to a Dutch design company, Tinker imagineers, who specialise in creating immersive experiences for exhibitions, visitor centres, and multi-media theatres around the world. They developed a department store theme, where exhibits are displayed like products to be browsed.

The four floors each have their own colour-based themes. Visitors start at Black, where they explore the story of coal and the miner.

A woman looks at a display cabinet of minerals
The ground floor (Photo: Mike Bink fotografie)

The second floor, Gold,  reflects the prosperity brought to the Mining Area by the coal industry. It’s worth noting that in the heyday of coal mining (the mid-1950s), Heerlen had the largest concentration of department stores in the Netherlands. Many miners would be spending their very hard-earned cash in this very building!

Display of 1950s fashion
Gold floor displays (Photo: Mike Bink fotografie)

The third floor is Grey and shows the frightening flipside of the mining industry, such as the dangerous working conditions, lung disease, and the disastrous social consequences of the mine closure.

Miners in breathing apparatus
Mine dangers (Photo: Mike Bink fotografie)

Finally, the top floor is called Colour. Here, the visitor is introduced to the transition and colourful future of the Mining Region.

Children play with interactive displays
Colour floor (Photo: Visit Zuid-Limburg)

The Dutch Mining Museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10.00 to 17.00 (excluding holidays) and costs €10 for adults and €7 for children aged 4 – 10.

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