April 28, 2004

Exhibit depicts miners' trials, tribulations

by Paula M. Davenport

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A photo exhibit depicting the lives of some of the region's last remaining underground coal miners -- whose health insurance and retirement savings are in jeopardy because of their company's bankruptcy -- opens with a free public reception at 2 p.m. Saturday, May 1, at the University Museum at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

The museum is in the north wing of SIUC's Faner Hall. Free parking is available in lots near the Student Center.The photo-documentary, "Working Out the Seams: The People of Zeigler 11, Coulterville," features about 40 color images by photographer Lee Buchsbaum, a graduate student at SIUC. It will remain on display through May 17.

"The photographs in this exhibition were made both at the Zeigler 11 mine in Coulterville and in the miners' personal spaces, their homes, backyards, or places special or unique to them. Dozens of employees -- both active, retired and disabled -- were interviewed and the text for this exhibit is largely made up of their quotes. Just as these are their portraits, made in collaboration with the photographer, these are also their stories," says Buchsbaum.

"These are the people next door to you, but they are also on the front lines of what is emerging as a much larger issue than coal mining: that of the failure of the employer based health-care system. When Horizon Natural Resources, the conglomerate that owns the mine, is reorganized, it will likely divest itself of the promise of lifetime health care that was made to its employees and to the employees of the companies that it purchased."

Museumgoers can chat with Buchsbaum at the opening.

SIUC's Coal Research Center is helping support the photo project.

See the new show from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays while the University is on semester break.

Expanding cultural outreach efforts is among the goals of Southern@150, the blueprint for the development of the University by the time it celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2019.