History Makers – A Light in the Darkness

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AIM Biffa Award History Makers

National Coal Mining Museum for England – A Light in the Darkness

Grant received: £81,987.62

What is your project about? 

Our History Maker is Sir Humphry Davy (1778-1829) who was one of the most famous scientists of his day. Our exhibition, A Light in the Darkness, tells the story of Davy’s invention of a safe lamp to be used by coal miners underground.

What has the AIM Biffa Award funding been used for? 

The AIM Biffa Award funding has been used to create an accessible, engaging and interactive exhibition that explores the danger gas underground posed to coal miners and tells the story of how Sir Humphry Davy was asked to use his knowledge to help save the miners’ lives. Visitors can work alongside Davy to invent a safe lamp for miners to use and then find out how the lamp evolved over the next 150 years to become the iconic miners’ lamp that we recognise today. The exhibition concludes by exploring the legacy of the miners’ lamp.

How has receiving AIM Biffa Award funding positively impacted your organisation? 

This funding has enabled us to create a stunning new exhibition in a gallery space that hadn’t been updated for 15-20 years. We now have a new, flexible learning space that we can use with school groups and young visitors to inspire them with the importance of STEM subjects. This new gallery will give us the impetus to continue to make improvements to the Museum’s galleries across site.

How has the AIM Biffa Award funding added value to what your organisation already does? 

This gallery will form a crucial part of the Museum’s ambitions to become a centre for STEM learning. The project complements the exciting work which is already taking place across the Museum site and will make a real difference in enhancing the visitor experience and engagement opportunities while increasing access to the Museum’s historic lamp collection.

Please give us 3 top tips for other AIM members on how to best manage AIM Biffa Award History Makers funded projects:

  1. Agree clear deadlines with your designers early on in the project
  2. Minute all meetings and revisit previous discussions to ensure everyone is on the same page
  3. Establish good communication with your designers.

Please share any lessons learnt from managing your AIM Biffa Award funding?

I have learnt a lot about project management from managing the creation and installation of A Light in the Darkness. I have learnt that clear communication, taking minutes at all meetings and making sure you know what’s going on with every element of the project are essential to good project management.

“We now have a fantastic new exhibition that tells the story of Sir Humphry Davy and his safe lamp in a really accessible way. The Museum’s collection of flame-safety lamps look stunning in their new setting.”

Stephanie Thompson, Collections Manager

“I have enjoyed learning about the flame safety lamp and helping others to learn in a fun way too” S. Kitson, Young Volunteer

“I mentioned about this volunteering at my job interview and they were really impressed” N. Snowman, Young Volunteer

“I loved being involved in the ‘Light in the Darkness’ project as a volunteer. I learnt a lot about the processes involved in putting together an exhibition and really enjoyed doing the research on Stephenson and Clanny using the library resources. It is great to know that the research I did has helped to shape the exhibition. Being a part of this project has made me really keen to work with museum collections in the future.” Kate Fraser, Volunteer