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Photographic Collection

Photographs have the power to inspire, inform and connect us to the world. They can help us to find a sense of place, and a sense of our own heritage. Our photographic collection contains over 60,000 images dating from 1845 to the present day. It provides a comprehensive record of Cornish life and culture, captured by both amateur and professional photographers.

The collection is considered to be of local and national significance, providing evidence of some of the earliest photographic techniques, particularly those related to underground photography of Cornish mines in the late 19th century by John Charles Burrow. Our earliest image is an early ‘Talbotype’ or ‘Sun Picture’ taken by Fox Talbot in 1845, showing Plymouth Docks from Mount Edgcumbe. It also contains discrete collections by other local photographers including Jonathan Barker, John Crowther, Major Arthur William Gill, Samuel John Govier, John Wheeley Gough Gutch, Lewis Harding, Herbert Hughes, Arthur William. Jordan, John Peck, Arthur Philp and Charles Woolf.

We hold a variety of different formats including Daguerreotypes, Ambrotypes, tintypes, albumen prints, carte de visites, cabinet cards, lantern slides, vintage and modern gelatine silver prints, C-type prints, colour transparencies, glass plate negatives, celluloid negatives, photographic albums and printed and photographic postcards. The collection also includes several reels of amateur cine film shot in the 1930s to 1970s.