Morwellham quay was once the most important copper port in Queen Victoria’s Empire but now it is a public museum reminiscent of the once great mining industry. The old town fell into ruins around 1900AD when Britain found it cheaper to by copper than to mine it and so it fell into ruins. Now it has been restored by the Tamar Valley Trust and is run and supported as a museum. Because of its appearance it does not conjure up the image of its once significant place in mining.
Some of the buildings that are left have been restored and some have been left as a ruin though none actually show how the port was described in the video, a port of a few hundred metres is now a silted up riverbank, 3 houses to show how all classes of people lived bustling in the streets on the way to the mines, school or shops. From the video Morwellham quay has lost its magnificence in size, importance and glory. There are only shells left of the houses once built to incorporate a self-sufficient mining town.
The ports once built are now silted up and overgrown taking any indication of a port that had more ships a day than Plymouth, the only thing that would give it away without being told is the mooring poles. I will now discuss my experience of the informacy of the museum. The video – this was the first contact we had with the museum. The video I believe was for an older audience of maybe forty plus. I think this because that the music and general presentation was not appealing to those who are young but the language is more suited to those of 10 year olds. The music was traditional folk music and would turn away the younger generations.
The actual visual part was unappealing as well because it was just photographs of the miners and video clips of the river. This does not interest the newer generations. I believe they could improve the video by perhaps adding a cartoon or some appropriate modern music to it so as to engage the viewer. Another way to do it would be to let schoolchildren produce the video. This is because they know what they like so it would probably engage younger people alike. Next we went on the mine. This was a small train that took you through a widened tunnel on one level of the mine.
This is interesting for younger riders as it is dark and provides an element of mystery. There was a guided talk taking you step by step through the age that most people would understand and was accompanied by models of workers with audio clips. This made it very easy to understand but also very informative on the mining lifestyle. They had left one tunnel un-widened so that we would be able to see how uncomfortable that the miners had to endure daily for their entire lives. We also found that they had to make bids on a stretch of tunnel about how much mineral they could mine but if they fell short they would owe the company.
There was also a waterwheel there that used to pump out the water in the lower levels that leaked in because they were underneath the river. This was one of the museums main attractions and it was pretty entertaining and educating. They still could have done more like had people role-playing the miners so as we could see the actual methods used. Another way to do things would be to have audio all of the way around the mine, open other layers and let you explore yourself because you learn more by experience. We then got to do hands on experience with child labour and school games.
This was fun and informative because we got to do what we would have done 100 or so years ago, with the best way to learn being experience. The workers were also in costume and run the activities. The only problem was everything was too clean for a mining town but we later found that this was because it intimidated the public when they tried it before. The staff could have made things more realistic by acting the part as if they were C19th miners/ women. Then you would have had the feel of how people really lived. The building weren’t enough in number to do the museum justice.
There were only to classes of housing representing a miner’s house and an essayers’ house. This did not show how the poorest and the richest lived. There are also some ruins that they had there of the houses before the trust restored them. This shows us the layout of the old town and how big the miner’s cottages were in an unbiased way as the cottage could have been altered when restored. Morwellham Quay shows Devon’s Industrial Heritage quite well as it has been hardly altered to the 1800’s bar a few small bits of much needed maintenance and safety. The only shame is that it does not try to engage the younger visitor.