The Guardian reports on how a priceless photographic archive has been saved by the National Maritime Museum:
Cornish wreck picture archive rescued - National Maritime Museum buys archive of 1,360 photographs amassed over 125 years by one family in the Isles of Scilly.
Dramatic and sometimes haunting images of Cornish shipwrecks and rescues that were gathered by four generations of a family over 125 years have been bought by the National Maritime Museum.
The museum acquired an archive amassed by the Gibsons of Scilly when it came up for sale at Sotheby's in London.
Lord Sterling of Plaistow, chairman of the Royal Museums at Greenwich, called it a "remarkable archive" that "will enable us to create a series of exhibitions that will travel across the country, starting with the south-west. I know that the Gibson family are delighted that their family archive will remain and be displayed in this country."
The collection consists of 1,360 glass and film negatives recording more than 200 shipwrecks in the treacherous waters off Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.
It was John Gibson who founded the family photographic business in the 1860s, taking his first wreck photograph in 1869. But it was his sons Alexander and Herbert – born four years apart but inseparable brothers – who perfected the technique of photographing the raw drama of wrecks. The images have been featured in newspapers, magazines and on TV and film, as well as in books by John Arlott, John Fowles and John Le Carré.
If a ship ran aground off the Cornish coast, a member of the Gibson family would be one of the first on the scene. The wrecks include that of the 3,500 ton German steamer Schiller in 1876, which caused 300 deaths, and happier stories such as the British-owned barque Glenbervie, which went ashore on rocks at Coverack – all the crew were saved plus much of its cargo of 600 cases of whisky and 400 cases of brandy.
The collection also includes ledgers of telegraphic messages sent from the Isles of Scilly, which contain human stories of disaster, courage and survival.
The NMM paid £122,500 for the collection.
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