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Museums Where You Can Learn About the Industrial History of the United States

Image via Flickr by Mark Goebel

Coal, automobiles, fishing—these are three of the cornerstone industries in the country. Some are still going strong, of course, and others are slowly fading, making it more important to learn about them. To learn about a field of work, it’s always best to head to the area where that particular industry reigned.

The Kentucky Coal Mining Museum

The coal mining industry is an essential foundation in the nation’s history. Certain states, including Ohio, West Virginia, and Kentucky, relied on jobs provided by coal for decades, if not closer to a century. In addition to the miners and the other essential employees at the mine itself, the industry also employed truck drivers, to say nothing of the fat-cat administrators.

The Kentucky Coal Mining Museum tracks all of that. It’s a safe place to get an up-close look at the layout of a coal mine. Not only will you learn about the tipple, the positions on the line, and the most dangerous jobs, but you can also see what it must have been like, cooped up down below the surface of the earth in a deep, dank cavern. The risks to workers inside the mines were always great. Gas leaks were a grave concern, as were collapses.

It’s not all doom and gloom, though. You can see coal cut straight out of the mines, an electric locomotive, and typical mining machinery. The experience is as authentic as it gets. Benham, the Harlan County town where the museum’s located, was once a coal camp.

The Maritime & Seafood Industry Museum

Image via Flickr by Mark Goebel

As some states once depended on coal, others relied on fishing—and still do. The seafood industry, in particular, is a boon in coastal states, including Mississippi. Check out hotels in Biloxi that are near the Maritime & Seafood Industry Museum, because you may want to spend more than one day in the area. The museum is rather recent, so the displays are still fresh and exciting.

Using a range of donated and found artifacts, carefully crafted exhibits, and revealing photographs, the museum charts the rise of the maritime and seafood industries, beginning with the first Indian settlement in the area. The story continues throughout the generations of settlers, conquerors, and immigrants who found themselves on the Gulf Coast. The details will amaze you. Even as you walk up the steps of the building, the stair rails have narrow threads of steel cable woven through them in a nod to seafood fishing and the maritime vessels that make it possible.

The Petersen Automotive Museum

In Los Angeles, the Petersen Automotive Museum pays homage to the passion with which Southern Californians view their automobiles. It’s a museum devoted to innovation, beauty, and luxury. While visitors are educated about the history of the automobile, along with the scientific aspects involved in their manufacture, the museum also celebrates the artistic beauty of sensual curves, sleek lines, and powerful engines.

Museums that celebrate the industries that built the country are both enjoyable and educational. Have you ever visited an industrial museum?