Archive for the ‘Mining Museum’ Category

The Mining Museum

July 31, 2018

The latest Chloe Ellefson mystery, Mining For Justice, features Wisconsin’s lead mining era.

To learn about the miners’ work, the Mining Museum in Platteville, WI, is a great place to explore.

Touring the 1845 Bevans Lead Mine with a knowledgeable guide is a highlight. The lead region produced over 27,000 tons of lead that year!

 

About to descend into the mine. I’m holding a piece of lead ore, which is heavier than it looks.

Mining Museum staff discovered the exact location of the Bevans Mine, which had long been closed, in 1972. The city of Platteville opened the mine to the public four years later.

Mining Museum, Platteville WI

Mannequins have been arranged along the tour route to depict several aspects of mine labor.

 

Mining Museum Platteville

Just for comparison—same scene without a flash. The guides carry flashlights, and there is lighting in the mine, but spending time there reminds guests in a visceral way that these men worked in dark conditions.

 

Mining Museum, Platteville

Heavy labor.

 

Mining Museum, Platteville, WI

The “man” on the right is holding a gad (used like a chisel to loosen rock) while his partner drives it into the rock wall. This teamwork required trust and skill. Note the sticking tommy with candle in the wall nearby.

 

IMG_0883

I’m looking at a pile of rubble shoved aside and left behind by miners. It helped me picture a key scene in Mining For Justice. Museum Educator Mary is on the left.

In addition to the mine, there are formal exhibits to explore.

Mining Museum, Platteville

This display reminds guests that Native Americans were smelting lead long before white miners arrived.

 

Mining Museum, Platteville

I love this diorama, showing how miners would work down until they found a promising drift of ore. They would then dig horizontally, following the drift until it played out.

 

Version 2

Regulations for miners.

One particularly interesting display was developed by students at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. Historians knew that African American miners were involved in the lead boom, but the students dug out details about freed and enslaved black men.

In addition to touring the mine and museum, I visited one day when Stephanie, former long-time curator at the museum, was demonstrating how lead was heated to a molten state and poured into molds to make ingots.

Mining Museum, Platteville WI

Stephanie melts down lead over an open fire.

 

Mining Museum, Platteville WI

Once in a liquid state, the lead was poured into molds. After cooling, the bar of lead can be flipped out. Lead was made into ingots for ease in transporting.

 

Mining Museum, Platteville

Many thanks to Mary and Stephanie for their help!

The Mining Museum is open May through October. If you plan a visit, be sure to check the website for full details. And it’s a two-fer! You can also tour the city’s Rollo Jamison Museum.