With the help of a grant from Cornwall Heritage Trust the Penlee House Gallery was able to purchase at auction the Gibson Family Photographic Archive.
The archive connects three important strands of Penlee House Gallery & Museum’s activity: archaeology, local history and art. The Gibson photographs of Penzance and its surrounding area, including construction, fishing and mining, support and illuminate the museum artefacts by creating a visual context for interpretation and education. Gibsons was a thriving Scilly and Penzance business: the range of subjects in this collection reflect its commercial interests, which include depictions of Cornish scenes with the potential for a wider, national appeal. Whilst three quarters of the collection are west Cornwall images, the remainder are an indication of the breadth of Gibson & Sons interests e.g. Tintagel Castle and nearby Bossiney, Camelford, Bude, Tintern Abbey and Stonehenge. Seen as a whole, the collection shows the preoccupations, not to mention ambition, of this early photography business, just as the new railway was bringing masses of tourists to Cornwall.
Gibson Penzance’s dates (1877 – 1925) coincide with the development of the Newlyn artists’ colony. Penlee will use the archive to research the links between photography and the art community in Penzance and Newlyn, in particular the artists of the Newlyn School