For our last planned weekend event, we visited Beamish museum. Beamish is an open-air museum that recreates what life was like for ordinary people in the 1820’s, 1900’s, and 1950’s. One really interesting fact we learned about Beamish is that instead of building their structures simply to resemble what they may have looked like in the past, they dismantled, transported, and rebuilt buildings stone-by-stone from all across the Northeast. This was to provide a more authentic experience, and many of the accessories throughout Beamish are original pieces as well. While this was not quite an immersive living history museum like Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia, there were workers dressed in period appropriate clothes participating in period appropriate activities. For example, there were few blacksmiths who were actually forging tools, farmhands who took care of the animals, and families preparing food from scratch in some of the homes. Of course, it would not be a good representation of the history of Durham without one of the many mines that were the livelihood of so much of the population. We were able to once again go down into a mine, this time a coal mine instead of a lead mine. Beamish provided a great experience to tie together all of the history we have been learning about the Durham area, as we were able to see what we had been hearing so much about.
As our time here is coming closer to an end, we have all had time to acclimate to a different country, and I hope that we will continue to understand more about the comparisons between our countries and the reasons for those similarities and differences. With such a long and rich history, Beamish only tells a piece of the story of County Durham. However, it is a very important piece that has lasting effects on the community. While the Durham Cathedral is an amazing piece of 12th century history, it does not have the same effect on Durham citizens today like the end of the mining industry does. Durham is steeped in history, so having a museum bring attention to more recent struggles rather than bygone eras was very interesting. With only two weeks left before we return to the States, I look forward to exploring Durham more fully while I still can.