By Carra Higgins
The Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine and Youth Museum will open for its 51st season Sunday with the traditional sunrise Easter service at 6 a.m. followed by the official mine opening at 10 a.m.
Leslie Gray Baker, director of operations for the mine and museum, explained there has been a sunrise Easter service since the Pemberton Coal Camp Church relocated to the Exhibition Coal Mine. Pastor Gene Miller of the Flat Branch Baptist Church at Arnett will conduct the 2013 sunrise service, which is open to the public.
“We are excited to be beginning our 51st season here at the mine,” Baker said. “What started out as just a short underground tour has evolved into a cultural journey back into early West Virginia mining history. Now our visitors can tour the underground coal mine, as well as visit the restored buildings of the Coal Camp, the Rahall General Store and Museum, the Youth Museum of Southern West Virginia and the pioneer village, The Mountain Homestead.”
This spring, new educational components will be added to the Exhibition Mine tours. Baker says the mine staff is working with the Friends of Coal organization to bring high definition videos to certain areas of the tour experience.
“This will enable us to include current information on the coal industry and modern 21st century mining techniques,” Baker said.
Also, now through August, the Youth Museum is hosting the exhibition “Liberty on the Border.” The Civil War exhibit is on loan from the Cincinnati Museum Center and focuses on nonmilitary events and civilian contributions, which puts the causes, effects and meaning of the Civil War in more personal terms. Visitors to the exhibit will also learn about the roles of women and children during the war.
The Exhibition Coal Mine is listed on many travel websites as a “destination not to be missed,” and it hosts approximately 40,000 visitors each year, Baker said.
“Our visitors come from all over,” she commented. “In the spring and fall we have hundreds of school children who come on field trips and, then, during the summer months we see mostly tourists from out-of-state. And, of course, this July we are expecting that thousands of Boy Scouts will want to experience an authentic underground mining trip.”
In addition to the underground tour, the Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine also has a selection of coal figurines, West Virginia crafts, freshly made fudge and other souvenirs available in the gift shop.
Both the Exhibition Coal Mine and the Youth Museum are located in New River Park, Ewart Avenue, Beckley. Hours are from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day, with the last tour going underground at 5:30 p.m. Those planning a trip to the mine are encouraged to bring a jacket because it’s always 58 degrees. For more information on rates and tours visit www.beckley.org and click on the Exhibition Coal Mine or the Youth Museum link or call 304-256-1747.
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