Haunting Scilly Shipwreck Photographs Will Remain In Britain

gibson shipwreck photo
The collection of shipwreck photographs taken by several generations of the Gibson family in Scilly and Cornwall will remain in the country after the National Maritime Museum purchased it yesterday.

And parts of it may come to Scilly on a south west tour.

The museum paid £122,500 for the archive, which includes 1,300 glass negatives and written records of the wrecks, at the auction at Sotheby’s in London.

Senior Curator of Maritime History at Greenwich, Robert Blyth, made the winning bid.

He said the “highly emotive and powerful images” of ships foundering on the coast are of national importance.

And he understands the disappointment some people may feel that the collection will leave Scilly, but the museum was concerned it would be broken up or go overseas.

He said that’s why they wanted to save it for the nation.

Robert says the auction was well attended with plenty of islanders in the room.

Luckily there were only four or five bids, he said, and the museum paid less than the upper estimate of £150,000.

He was prepared to bid more but was glad he didn’t have to, and thinks the museum got it for a fair price.

The Maritime Museum will now catalogue the collection and have the condition of the glass negatives assessed by their conservators.

They’re hoping to use these to make high quality digital images that can be viewed online.

Robert also says he’s certain that parts of the collection will be available for display in Scilly in the future, even if only on a temporary basis.

And he’s keen to explore the links between the figureheads displayed at Valhalla on Tresco, which is also run by the National Maritime Museum, and the photos of the ships in the collection.

Frank Gibson’s daughter, Sandra Kyne, said the family are absolutely delighted that the archive has gone to such a good home.

She said it was always important to the family to share the wonderful shipwreck images with members of the public, and the public nature of selling at auction has meant that there’s a greater awareness and appreciation for the photographs.