The Black Country was a landscape of intense mining of rich mineral seams below its surface that eventually were exhausted. They were a 'finite' resource and unsustainable beyond the four centuries at the focus of the Industrial Revolution.
The 'seam of heritage' however does not become exhausted with time and wise use. It becomes better with time and development. Its wise use requires a balance that is encapsulated within the wider field of 'sustainable development' as a whole.
Sustainable Development has been defined by the United Nations as sustainable development as 'development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs'.
It is a complex issue, and one that has different needs in different parts of the world. Here in the Black Country this is being defined by the Black Country Plan - a 30 year vision for the development of the Black Country (formerly known as the Black Country Core Strategy).
Sustainable Tourism and sustainable transport solutions are key features within the future well being of the Black Country as a happier, healthier place with greater opportunities for generations to come.
One example of our commitment to sustainable tourism is working with local artisans who work in the Stourbridge Glass Quarter. They make hand made goods and sell them directly to visitors and the general public at our visitor attractions during attendance at events held in the Black Country UNESCO Global Geopark that we help to promote, for example the International Festival of Glass. The Geopark also supports our local hospitality businesses such as cafes, restaurants, gift shops at and around our local geosites. We aim through the wider work of the Geopark to attract more people to use these facilities which will sustain and further develop the visitor economy through geotourism.
Our sustainable development work is expanding further through our joint partnership working with the Black Country UNESCO Global Geopark management team. Through this we identify potential partner businesses and business opportunities. They ensure that we are promoting awareness of the Black Country UNESCO Global Geopark through activities such as displays, demonstrations, presentations and face to face interaction as well as providing many locations for people to pick up Geopark information and geosites leaflets. Our tourism partners include visitor attractions, outdoor recreation partners including countryside parks, nature reserves, canals and waterways and a range of arts sector partners across the Black Country.
The Black Country UNESCO Global Geopark headquarters, 'Dudley Museum at The Archives', displays some of the finest heritage of the Black Country and tells the landscape story through time. The headquarters is the starting point for visitors to explore the entire Black Country by giving them a small taste of the many heritage wonders of this amazing area, and then pointing them outwards to explore the wider Geopark. The Geopark room contains information on each of our geosites and upcoming events across the Black Country. In addition, the Black Country UNESCO Global Geopark video raises awareness of the project and is available as a continual loop film at the Museum and at various places online. The headquarters is also the focus of educational sessions to the public.
As part of our Junior’s and Adults at Museum’s events programme we offer drop in Rock and Fossil Identification sessions, formal education sessions on 'How to be a dinosaur' and various history presentations ranging from pre-history to Saxons and Vikings. Their website, www.dudley.gov.uk/things-to-do/museums/learning/ includes virtual tours, information about their fossils and an opportunity to find out more about the Dudley Castle finds from an archaeological dig in the 1980s.
In 2018, the Museum was the focus for the Black Country's contributions to Geopark Week and held a Black Country UNESCO Global Geopark awareness day and continued the microfossil research.
Some of our joint projects have involved working with Wolverhampton Art Gallery, Wolverhampton Archives, Bantock House and Bilston Craft Gallery to deliver the travelling exhibition 'The Riches Beneath Us' a Black Country-specific Geopark exhibition. Also, a major 'Discovering Dinosaurs' exhibition and 'Dinosaurs Art' exhibition that was extremely popular with visitors and saw visitor numbers rocket!
Other examples of joint projects are a ‘Fossil Fuelled’ permanent exhibition at Bilston Craft Gallery in Wolverhampton.
Through our attendance at future UNESCO UK Global Geopark Conferences and International UNESCO Global Geopark Conferences, we will engage and establish further partnerships with other successful Geoparks across the world and learn from them how best to deliver sustainable tourism.
As we continue to improve our interpretation at all of our geosites and other venues across the Black Country we will increase awareness to our local residents and visitors alike. Our joint marketing of the Global Geopark in the Black Country will expand to reach more people, both within the UK and overseas. Through these initiatives, we will raise awareness of the special heritage and engender respect and value of these world class assets which will sustain them and protect them. This will provide greater understanding of the Earth, its processes and how humans have used its resources to create the Black Country. It will also encourage people to take an interest in the environment and its protection for all future generations.
If you are interested in becoming a partner involved in developing our sustainable geotourism we would love to hear from you. Contact us via email email@example.com