History, Interviews, Notebook, Photography

Historian Interview with David Amos

For the latest in my periodic series of Q&A type blog posts talking to interesting people doing exciting things around photography, history and visual culture, I was lucky to be able to catch-up with mining heritage project worker and tutor Dr. David Amos to talk about Mine-Craft the Prequel: The Photographic Story of East Midlands Coal a brilliant sounding project planned with Nottingham Trent University, the Coal Authority and Derbyshire Record Office.

I first came across the work that David and his colleagues are doing via Twitter where I saw some of the photos that they’re working with. Their project seemed really interesting in terms of their desire to uncover and make accessible some of the stories behind photographs which were typically taken for a range of official purposes.

How are you using the photographs to tell the story of East Midlands Coal?

Mine-Craft the Prequel: The Photographic Story of East Midlands Coal is a joint
initiative between Nottingham Trent University (Project Lead) the Coal Authority
and the Derbyshire Records Office.

The main aims of the project are to add information (meta-data) to the East
Midlands based photographs in the Coal Authority collection and make them more
accessible to the public. In some cases, existing information about the
photographs is limited and in many cases non-existent.

What made you interested in using the photos this way?

A small, informal group of coal mining researchers, all who worked in the coal
mining industry, regularly meet at the Coal Authority Records Office on Friday
mornings (pre Covid 19 pandemic) and noted a lack of appropriate information
attached to the existing photograph collection.

In many cases, from the information gathered so far, a story line has appeared and
these stories of coal mining folklore and rituals can be told by means of a Blog,
podcasts, short video, image galleries etc. in these digital days of the early twenty-
first century.

Who created the photographs in the collection you are interested in?

The photographs are part of the National Collection belonging to the National
Archives with copies also being at the Records Dept, at the Coal Authority,
Mansfield, Nottinghamshire. The national coal photograph collection totals around
60,000 images of which around 13,000 are based on the East Midlands.

Mostly they date from the late 1940’s through to the 1980’s and were mostly taken
by the official photographers of the National Coal Board (NCB), which was formed
in 1947 when the British coal mining industry was nationalised.

What do the photographs typically depict?

The Coal Authority photograph collection depicts different aspects of the British
coal mining industry including different collieries, the working process, both
underground and on the surface, technological advances, people and social and
welfare aspects of the coal mining industry.

What are the plans for the Project moving forward?

The current pilot project runs from 1 st January to 30 th September 2021 and is
funded by the Global Heritage Fund at Nottingham Trent University. Project Lead
is Prof. Natalie Braber (NTU) and Research Associate is David Amos. Main
contact at the Coal Authority is Helen Simpson (Records Manager) and at
Derbyshire Records Office is Sarah Chubb (Commissioning, Communities and

The pilot project consists of four cases studies:

Bagworth Colliery, Leicestershire Coalfield (1825 – 1991)
Bestwood Colliery, Nottinghamshire Coalfield (1872 – 1967)
The Rev FW Cobb collection of photographs (c.1907 – 1914)
Coal Face Machinery through the Ages (c. 1890’s – 1990’s).

Local community groups in the former coalfields of the East Midlands have been
engaged in an attempt to gather the meta-data for the four case studies. An
essential aspect of the project is to try to gather information from the last
generation of people who worked in the coal mining industry before it is lost

Outputs for the pilot project will be a booklet supported by an on-line presence re
Blog, Image Gallery, short video’s, audios etc. There will be an on-line training
workshop and an on line ZOOM presentation about the Rev Cobb collection of

A funding application to the Heritage Lottery Fund has been recently submitted
with the aim of a more in-depth eighteen-month project to follow on from the pilot project, starting in October 2018.

Exemplar Photographs from the Coal Authority Collection

Images 1-4 in the gallery above are from Bestwood Colliery, Nottinghamshire. All images in the gallery are from the Coal Authority Collection and are reproduced for the Mine-Craft the Prequel Project (Nottingham Trent University, 2021)

About David: My current position is Heritage Resources Officer for Mine2Minds Education, a not for profit organisation founded by Paul Fillingham and I in 2015 to provide community education and training in the former industrial regions of the East Midlands. From 2016 – 2019, I was employed as a Research Associate on the Coal and Dialect initiative at Nottingham Trent University, researching the history of the East Midlands coalmining industry through the spoken word; short stories, poetry, song and coalmining folklore. Dr Natalie Braber, a linguist, was project lead. Prior to this, I worked as a Heritage Project Officer on several local heritage projects, including the Selstonia Living Heritage Project (2008-2011), the Annesley Old Church Project (2011-2014) and at Bestwood Winding Engine House (2013-2015). I have been a sessional tutor in Adult and Community Education since 2002, teaching courses on local, industrial and transport history. My earlier working life from was in coalmining at Annesley Colliery from 1974 to 1998. I was the last of six generations on my Dad’s side of the family to work in the local deep coalmining industry, the coalmining roots going back two-hundred years. My academic qualifications were achieved as a mature student, gaining a BA (Hons) Degree in History with Politics from the University of Derby at the age of 45 and my Doctorate from the University of Nottingham at the age of 55.

If you’d like to follow David and his work you can do so on Twitter. All pictures in this piece were supplied by David Amos and remain the property of their respective copyright holders.