Looking into the light

by ANTONY CLAY

THE story of an invention which saved the lives of many miners is being told in a newly-opened exhibition.
The miners’ safety lamp, invented by Sir Humphy Davy, is celebrated in A Light in the Darkness at the National Coal Mining Museum.
The new permanent exhibition at the popular attraction on the site of Caphouse Colliery on New Road in Wakefield has been funded by AIM Biffa Award as part of the History Makers – People Who Shaped Our World scheme.
A Light in the Darkness tells the history of the miners’ lamp, known as the Davy Lamp, which was invented in 1815.
Prior to the invention of the lamp, miners lived in fear of the presence of gas underground which was undetectable but highly flammable and in some cases explosive when it came into contact with the candles needed for light.
The lamp has been credited with saving countless lives.
The museum has spent a year exploring and interpreting the life of Sir Humphry Davy and the new exhibition takes visitors through a series of experiments and audio-visual displays to understand the problems that scientists like him, George Stephenson and Dr William Reid Clanny addressed to create the basic structure for the lamp which went on to be used as a template across the world.
The flame-safety lamp was revolutionary in underground lighting as it not only provided illumination but also helped miners detect explosive gas in the environment before it became problematic.
Housed in the Technology Gallery the exhibition also shows how the lamp has evolved over time, displaying some of the coal mining museum’s unique collection of flame-safety lamps and telling the stories of people who have made, used and collected them.
Collections manager Stephanie Thompson, said: “It’s really exciting to see this exhibition completed. It looks fantastic and 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.”

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