EDEN 2017 winner: The Centre Historique Minier, Lewarde

A mecca of culture in Northern France, the Centre Historique Minier de Lewarde (CHM) is France’s most important mining museum and the most visited museum in its region.

Lewarde itself is home to 2,500 residents and is situated less than 50 km from Lille, Arras, Valenciennes and Lens in Hauts-de-France. It’s been classified as a “monument historique” since 2009 and is one of UNESCO’s most remarkable mining sites.

The site is divided into three distinct parts: the mine museum, an archive and resource centre, and the Centre for the Scientific Culture of Energy (CCSE). Hour-long guided tours move through the underground galleries with thematic exhibitions on the geology and history of the mining basin, and testimonials of the daily life of the miners – and visitors can absorb the fascinating, 270-year history of this industry and that of the region as a whole. The Delloye pit, commissioned in 1931 but which ceased operation in 1971. Thousands of miners worked at this 8-hectare extraction site and mined around 1,000 tons of coal each day. The CCSE places the history of coal-mining in Nord-Pas de Calais within the more general history of energy in France and the rest of the world through exhibitions, conferences and publications.

The 2017 EDEN jury has acknowledged all the initiatives put in place to strengthen Lewarde’s tourist offering – it even boasts its own 320-seat restaurant, Le Briquet, housed in the sawmill of the old mine and holding the ‘Tourisme et Handicap’ label. The CHM works in synergy with other historic mining sites and the institutions that support them, and is grouped within the cultural offerings of the Louvre-Lens, a museum in Lens displaying objects from the Paris Louvre, with which it shares marketing and communication. It is also part of the tourist destination contract ‘Around the Louvre-Lens’.

And the CHM hasn’t gone without recognition elsewhere. In 2010 is received the “Musée pour Tous, Musée pour Chacun” (“Museum for All, Museum for Everyone”) award from the Ministry of Culture. Then, four years later, it was awarded the “Sésame de l’Accessibilité Positive” in the accessibility category by the National Disability Council. To promote the site to group influencers and teachers, presentations are regularly organised in various cultural venues within a radius of 200km, including at Pierrefonds Castle, the Villa Cavrois, the Great War museum in Meaux, and Nausicàa.

Since its opening in 1984, the CHM at Lewarde has undertaken several phases of redevelopment work that has led to today’s annual average of 150,000 visitors – and it’s already welcomed over 4 million visitors in total. Future projects include further developing the CCSE and a complete overhaul of the current exhibition ‘Energies: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow?’, plus the creation of a mediation/idea-sharing area at the heart of the guided tour. This new space will open to the public in February 2019.