Coal is to Big Stone Gap and the entire Appalachian region what automobiles are to Detroit, corn is to Kansas and oil is to Texas. Because coal mining, to a large extent, defines the area–how people live, where they work, and how they think and feel. The Coal Museum was put together, bit by bit and piece by piece, from the mini treasure troves and memorabilia of private homes and public buildings from Big Stone Gap and surrounding towns. For natives, the museum attempts to describe a personal heritage as well as provide a peek into the past. For others, it offers a rich educational experience concerning coal and its direct influence on the local lifestyle.