About South West Image Bank

The SWIB archives are managed by Plymouth Museums Galleries Archives. Work is underway to prepare the collections for relocation to The Box in 2020. Once open, the public will be able to see the collections throughout The Box galleries and search in the Cottonian research room.

SWIB was established in 2007 under the umbrella of the Plymouth Barbican Trust as a community based specialist repository and the custodian of over 200 unique individual archives dating back to the 1870s. Its collections are one of the largest bodies of photographic records in the region. Most of these are in original format ranging from glass plates, transparency negatives and lantern slides.  The collections include photography in its infancy through to post-war development and key local newspaper archives. In addition, SWIB has also developed a living archive – a body of work designed to encourage people to deposit their own, more recent images which can be preserved as archives for the future.

To develop the SWIB collections for The Box, the service has supported a team of 16 volunteers, ranging from the recently retired, students from the University of Plymouth and local colleges, and individuals with learning disabilities looking to gain invaluable experience in the workplace. Volunteers have helped to catalogue and digitise the unique photographic archives deposited at the archive for safekeeping by members of the public, photographers and local businesses. SWIB has been the recipient of two awards from The National Lottery Heritage Fund and two further grants from the Cooperative Group and the Virginia House Settlement Fund. It was short-listed for a Directory of Social Change Influencer Award in 2008 and recognised by the Community Archives Network as an official contact of support for other non-local authority archive projects in the region.

The SWIB archives are managed by Plymouth Museums Galleries Archives. From August 2018, SWIB’s collections are no longer available to access on site due to ongoing work to prepare collections for relocation to The Box. You can find more information about the collections through the link below.

Preservation and digitisation projects

Since its establishment in 2007, SWIB has undertaken a number of funded projects that have enabled the preservation and digitisation of archives. This includes:

  • A grant from The National Lottery Heritage Fund to digitise and make accessible 20,000 glass plates and transparencies from the Western Morning News
  • A grant from The National Lottery Heritage Fund in December 2010 to enable improved public access and gallery spaces, ongoing preservation and formal outreach and community engagement through the appointment of a project Outreach Assistant

Community archives

SWIB has worked with local photographers and researchers within the community, for example:

  • Simon Gomery, a local photographer, worked with SWIB to create a community archive highlighting the rich visual heritage of Devonport
  • Simon Gomery later curated a National Lottery Heritage Fund project using the photographs of notable regional photographer Roy Westlake from the archives. The project was to visually investigate the narrative of heritage, culture, industry, the environment, agriculture and the landscape. The photographs were selected to give a broad spectrum of what is like to have lived in the West Country at a particular period in time and resulted in an exhibition and book
  • Working with the Marine Biological Association (MBA) in 2012, a project called upon the resources of SWIB to assist with the appraisal, digitisation and promotion of a notable collection of around 300 glass plates found within the MBA’s archive holdings taken by ET Browne. This resulted in a display in the SWIB gallery
  • With a grant from the Cooperative, SWIB were asked to develop an exhibition for the 150th anniversary celebrations of the Coop in 2010. During the Summer of 2009, SWIB acquired a grant from the Virginia House Settlement to undertake an educational exhibition project showcasing a selection of images of the Barbican from our collections at various venues in the area

Higher education projects

Students from University of Plymouth worked with SWIB on several collaborative practice projects that complimented a chosen archival collection. The contemporary archives were added to the existing collections at SWIB.

  • BA (Hons) Photography students were encouraged to consider using alternative methods of photography such as film and pin-hole
  • A subsequent project called ‘Tracing Our Routes’ was created by two Media Arts degree students