From a model colliery to a museum
The Zollern colliery was built between 1898 and 1904 as a prestige object by the Gelsenkirchener Bergwerks AG, as a sign to competitors that it was the leading mining company on the market. The expensive building designs, the social pretensions and the technical innovations in the equipment were all meant to demonstrate the company’s power and representational ambitions. This “model colliery” was meant to demonstrate status.
After a brilliant start in the late years of the German Empire, decline soon set in. In the mid-1920s the new owners, the United Steel Works AG, announced the forthcoming end of production here. It was only the Second World War and the post-war era which gave the colliery a new boost. But in 1966, following the crisis in the coal industry, the Zollern colliery was closed for good.
It is indisputable that the colliery would have fallen victim to the vogue of demolition in the early years of structural transformation had the plans not been met by vehement protests from committed grass-roots opponents. Shortly before excavators arrived on the site to demolish the buildings the state conservation officer of the regional authority, the Landschaftsverband Westfalen-Lippe (LWL), saved the colliery from destruction by listing it. Thus the Zollern colliery became the first industrial building in Germany to be awarded the status of a monument. In 1981 the LWL integrated Zollern into its State Museum of Industrial Heritage.