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Diary of a Silversmith

Silver Mine Visit

I was invited to visit a silver mine museum in France by a couple of German/Canadian friends a few weeks ago - how could I - a silversmith even think of refusing!

The abandoned mine, of which there are many in the Vosges Mountain area of France, has been turned into a museum. This one is quite near to Strasburg.

The excursion is split into different sections, above and below ground. It starts with a film about how a silver mine was bought and then all the different workers gathered together.

The next part is to take a group of people into the old mine workings, through a series of tunnels - not down a mine shaft. We were all dressed in warm jackets and waterproof capes with hoods and all topped off by a miners helmet with a light on top.It was quite cold underground around 10C I would guess and very damp with puddles on the ground. Although the floor was surprisingly level apart from a few dips where water had gathered. Some of the passage ways were very narrow and some of the taller people struggled a little. It is hard to imagine the conditions that the workers had to endure for up to 8 hours a day in candle light and very cold and damp. 

After just an hour and a half it was a joy to get back to the next part of the tour which involved interactive displays where you could listen to explanations of each scene and see some of the tools used.

This was followed by a final film about the different types of workers, their backgrounds and lives. They were split into three main groups, carpenters, actual mine workers and women who processed the lumps of rock into smaller chippings. The only part I felt was a bit lacking was details of how the ore was extracted from the rock which would have been of particular interest to me as a silversmith

All in all it was very well done and not an expensive visit for the time we spent there (approx three hours). But it was very nice to get back in the warm car that had been parked in the sunshine.

If you get the chance to visit that area I would recommend it. The narration is done in several languages via headset

http://www.massif-des-vosges.com/en/90/A228000847/tellure-silver-mine-sainte-marie-aux-mines.htm

Remember to wear warm clothes!!