Photographic Archive Goes on Display at the Maritime Museum

From 9 October

A new exhibition opening at the Maritime Museum in Falmouth on October 11, features a captivating array of photographs of ships wrecked on the Cornish coast from the turn of the 19th-20th centuries.

From the closing years of the 19th, and down through the 20th century, a number of capable local photographers secured numerous images of ships wrecked on the Cornish coast. 


Pre-eminent in the genre were Gibson and Sons of Penzance and the Isles of Scilly, who justifiably hold pride of place.

For several generations the Gibsons secured countless images of wrecked ships, carting cumbersome photographic equipment to precarious cliff top and shore-line locations. Capturing images of sailing craft, steamers and motor vessels in varying stages of distress they created an impressive archive of this aspect of our maritime history, so costly in terms of lives and endeavour.

Given Falmouth's location and its excellent dry dock and engineering facilities a large number of damaged vessels arrived in the port seeking aid.  G C Fox and Sons, the principal firm of Ships' Agents at Falmouth, acted for many of these and photographs of a number of these distressed vessels found their way into Fox's archives.  In 2013 the National Maritime Museum Cornwall purchased this collection of photographs with support from the Arts Council Prism Fund.

Exhibitions Manager Ben Lumby says: "Since we first publicised this exhibition as 'Gibsons of Scilly' we have concluded that not all the photographs can be attributed for certain to the Gibson studios, but may well be the work of other studios of the time. The exhibition title could therefore be somewhat misleading, but the collection remains a fascinating record of the photographers' art and maritime events of that period."

Gibsons of Scilly at the National Maritime Museum Cornwall runs from October 11 until January 18.  For more information on opening times and admission prices visit or call 01326 313388.