About: The South West Image Bank

The South West Image Bank (SWiB) is a community based specialist repository managed, since January 2017, by Clare Robinson. The SWiB supports a team of 16 volunteers, ranging from the recently retired, students from the University and Colleges, and individuals with learning disabilities looking to gain invaluable experience in the workplace. These volunteers actively undertake the cataloguing and digitisation of 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 Heritage Lottery Fund Awards and two further grants from the Cooperative Group and the Virginia House Settlement Fund. 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, SWiB is under the umbrella of the Plymouth Barbican Trust - a long-standing charitable trust.

Photographs exist as the visual memory of the community.  SWiB is currently the custodian of over 200 unique individual archives dating back to the 1870s, which collectively exist as the largest body of photographic records in the region. Most of these collections are in original format ranging from glass plates, transparency negatives and lantern slides. SWiB has exclusive access to these collections which includes; the Roy Westlake Archive with images depicting the immediate post-war development of the City; the Western Morning News Archive with some two million images relating to civic events, transport, people, places and culture; the Western Evening Herald and collections from local businesses of the past, including the Dingles and Tecalemit Archives. SWiB also has the entire William Gilhen Archive, a contemporary of the noted Victorian photographer William Frith which includes original photographs dating back to a time when photography itself was in its infancy. In addition to these more traditional archive resources, 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.

For several years SWiB has received funding from the Plymouth Herald to help with the costs of looking after their extensive collection and in exchange for supplying images for features in the paper.  Each week SWiB provides The Plymouth Herald with a selection of 16 images, from the archive, on a particular theme which contributes to the popular weekly Looking Back supplement that comes out every Tuesday. SWiB also supplies six photographs for the On This Day feature, which runs in the Herald each day of the week.


All images South West Image Bank

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