This paper explores the history of representing coalmining heritage in museums between the 1960s and 1980s. The process of representing industry in museums during a period of significant economic change was highly contested. Whilst political and economic leaders often expressed a desire to vanquish the ‘old black industrial image’, there was a growing popular concern to venerate and represent an industrial culture and landscape that appeared under threat. At the same time the curation of industrial heritage, with its focus on collective memory, associational life and culture, represented a clear break with an earlier regional museum inheritance characterised by singular philanthropic and antiquarian collections and institutional developments. After 1960, the creation of museums to represent coalmining brought these tensions and new agendas to the fore. This article suggests that by examining in detail the historical context in which they were created we can better understand the nuanced and complex process of musealisation and its relationship to the experience of economic change and deindustrialisation.