Dundee has a fascinating industrial history. The first organised coal mining in South Africa was begun by the Dundee Coal Company (registered in 1889) on the slopes of Talana hill.
Dundee became the heart of the richest coal producing area in the country. Nicknamed "Coalopolis" the town expanded rapidly and the reconstructed town square and some of the shops vividly recalls these times.
The remains of coal mines that created the rich and vibrant economy of the area still mark the hillsides and valleys.
Today the museum has four extensive coal exhibits depicting the many aspects of coal mining in this area and preserving the proud and unique heritage of our mining history.
There are a number of exhibits showing the history and development of coal mining in northern KwaZulu-Natal. Visitors can wander through the Chamber of Mines exhibit which reflects the early history of the mines, the mining methods, uses of coal and the support services within the mining industry dust control, surveying, geology, life on the mines and the MINES RESCUE SERVICE.
Sponsored by Iscor Mining exhibits on the life of the style of mining on Durnacol and Hlobane mines have been created to show the conditions on mines and well as panels of information to tell the story of these two mines.
So many of the mine machines on display are the only ones of their kind ever imported into South Africa, the last of their kind, that were removed from operations and delivered to the museum. Without the museum collecting and preserving these machines and equipment a large part of the evolution of the technology of coal mining would have been lost.
Since the establishment of what is now Talana Museum in 1982 we have collected and preserved a steam engine from Ballengeich mine, a railway coach used by the mining fraternity, one of the original miners cottages from Ballengeich mine, the steam hammer from the blacksmiths shop on Northfield mine, the back-up generator plant from Durnacol, mining machines from Durnacol, Hlobane and ZAC that reflect the various mining methods used in the coal mines of Northern KZN – some being one-of-a-kind machines, and 7 buildings from Durnacol mine. Add to this literally hundreds of pieces of mining, laboratory and survey equipment, an incredible collection of geological samples, items that reflect the operation and history of the Mines Rescue Service, trophies, reflections of community life on the mines.
But possibly the most valuable are the maps, photographs, documents and personal reminiscences of coal mining history in this country.