Unfortunately, technical heritage is among the wider public sometimes not understood as “real” heritage, often it stands in the shadow of the “traditional” heritage sites – cathedrals, castles, historic towns. On the other hand the technical development created just the base which enabled the construction of those heritage sites – as well by developing and enlarging the technical facilities as by creating the necessary economic conditions.

Meanwhile there is throughout Europe a more or less similar understanding about the value of fortresses and castles, churches and monasteries, historic town halls and similar heritage sites, the understanding and the public appreciation of technical heritage strongly differs between the particular European countries – some countries have a very strong and living tradition in preserving technical and industrial heritage meanwhile in some other countries that is not at all the case and the interest for technical heritage is limited only on a very small circle of enthusiasts..

So, international volunteering at technical heritage sites can help to create bridges between those different traditions and approaches, in the same time creating more public attention for technical heritage sites and supporting the local enthusiasts in their efforts to conserve and to restore a specific technical heritage site.


In 2017, European Heritage Volunteers organises one project aiming to the restoration and maintenance of technical heritage sites. The project will take place at the Historic Mining Region Erzgebirge, Saxony.

In 1168, the first discovery of silver ore in Freiberg had a profound and lasting effect on the development of the region. Located in a Central European mountain range southeast of the Federal Republic of Germany and the northwest of the Czech Republic, the region has played a major role at certain times in the output of tin (15th century), silver (16th century), cobalt (17th and 18th centuries), caolin (18th and 19th centuries) and uranium (20th century) in a global context. The rich ore deposits gave the region its name Erzgebirge (Ore Mountains). Mining was for centuries the key industry forming an exceptional transboundary mining cultural landscape with all its typical surface and underground installations, mining towns and natural features as well as the associated intangible values. The mining history and its impact on the landscape, the people and the culture is documented by several mining landscapes creating altogether the Erzgebirge/Krušnohoří region that has been nominated as transboundary World Heritage site.

Located in the Freiberg mining district, the Reiche Zeche (Rich Mine) mine is one of the oldest silver mines in this area. Its name is first documented for two shafts in 1384. In the following centuries, several other shafts such as the Alte Elisabeth (Old Elisabeth, 1511) and the Himmelfahrt (Ascension, 1716) developed in the neighbourhood. At the end of the 18th century, all shafts were combined under the name Himmelfahrt Fundgrube (Ascension Mine) which developed in the 19th century into the biggest European silver mine with over 2,800 miners and an output of 448 tons of silver between 1840 and 1896. With the decline of the silver price since 1873 the number of miners was step by step reduced and in 1913 the mine was closed. In 1905 it was decided to use the two shafts Reiche Zeche and Alte Elisabeth as research and teaching mine for the Bergakademie (mining academy) Freiberg. Today, the Himmelfahrt Fundgrube is a modern research and teaching place for the Technical University Bergakademie Freiberg and also a visitors’ mine where tourists can visit underground structures of the 14th to the 19th centuries.

The Rothschönberger Stolln (Rothschönberg drainage gallery) is regarded worldwide as the final point of the technological development of trans-regional water-adits. Constructed from 1844, it is the most important and deepest lying adit system of the Freiberg mining district still in operation today. The construction of the gallery is the result of numerous technical and technological innovations. Eleven Lichtlöcher (shafts) were deepened to advance the gallery. Located on a large heap, the Lichtloch VII is a well-preserved example of these shafts including the hoisting house with adjacent wheelhouse, the mine forge and the powder house. Today, a local mining club carefully maintains the site and presents it to the public.

The participants of the European Heritage Volunteers Project will work as well at Reiche Zeche as at Lichtloch VII.

At Reiche Zeche they will uncover a water-column machine from the 18th century currently covered behind a dry stone wall which has to be taken away for safety reasons. Aim of the works is to document and preserve the water-column machine for educational purposes.

Therefore the participants will clean the area and excavate the water-column machine, transport the waste material to the surface and sort the excavated stones to re-use them at Lichtloch VII.

Furthermore, some of the participants will work in another part of Reiche Zeche in order to prepare the construction of an access to the neighbouring former mine Geharnischt Männer. The mine workings are not accessible at the moment – the ladders are in bad condition. Last visits in 1998 showed that the place will provide a lot of archaeological findings from historic mining periods, at least from the 16thcentury onwards. Aim of the works is to open up the mine again as an archaeological training field for students. Therefore it is necessary to transport material to enable the re-opening to this area, in particular to transport ladders through the narrow adits below the surface to the shaft and to transport waste material stored in the adits on the way back.

At Lichtloch VII the participants will restore the capping of the wheel chamber with gneiss stones. The capping of the wall remains have suffered from weathering and several stones are missing. In some cases the arches of the openings are not preserved. During the last years, the responsible local Mining Club Lichtloch VII has collected numerous rubbles (Freiberger Gneiss) which can now be used to restore the walls. Additionally, the stones which will be saved from the works at Reiche Zeche will be re-used. The stones will be embedded in mortar and the recessing joints will be filled in using small stones.

The participants will sort and square the rubbles stones for the walls, prepare the surrounding area, reconstruct the arches, complement missing parts, supplement the walls of the wheel chamber up to twenty centimetres and grout the capstones for the brick wall’s top edge.

The project will take place from August, 5th, to August, 18th, 2017.


The project is organised by European Heritage Volunteers, in cooperation with Technische Universität Bergakademie Freiberg, Institute for Industrial Archaeology and History of Science and Technology, and with Förderverein Montanregion Erzgebirge (Association for the Mining Region Erzgebirge).