Cornwall is a land of startling beauty and remarkable stories. It is home to a rich heritage, a history written in the landscape and of remarkable innovation. A place that’s an integral organ to the heart and soul of industry, art, communication, world-trade, discovery and commerce.
The wealth of botanical botany that burst out of woodlands, groves, estates and cliff top-gardens, speak of the legacy of the Cornish plant-hunters and botanists who explored the globe for spectacular specimens. Cornwall’s connection to the wider world blooms year-round in it’s fruitful marriage of flowers, plants and trees.
The trade and commerce of hundreds of years is laid out in the great harbour walls across the coastline. Even the smallest of coastal villages connected to a world on water as tall ships and schooners weaved from port to port around the globe trading copper, tin, fish and china-clay.
The Tin mines that mark the skyline across Cornwall, stand like ghosts of monuments to an industry that seems ancient, alien and other-wordly. Yet, those mines did not all close their doors until well into the 1990’s. The China Clay industry was at its peak in the 1900’s but the deposits are still good for another 50 years and are still being mined – on a much smaller scale – by the French company Imerys.
The wild beauty, the drama of the coastline and the light of one of the sunniest locations in all of England has drawn artists and authors to Cornwall for centuries. Each had their time in the sun and like the plant-hunters and botanists, the fruits of their labour, the calling and interpretation of this place, paints the story of the Duchy too. Romance and grit sometimes fight for space in the legacy and representation of Cornwall but in some places, paintings, museums and galleries, you can find it all in one – even on a postcard.
Here are some of the museums that open up the stories of Cornwall – its heritage and its heart. For more information about museums in Cornwall, there is a dedicated site at https://www.museumsincornwall.org.uk/ that allows you to search for a museum to visit among a rich list of 70 options.
One of the legendary St Ives Artists, Hepworth gifted her art, studio and garden to the Nation upon her death. Hepworth curated her sculptures throughout the garden she created and it is now accessible to the public through The Tate St. Ives. This space provided a calm corner of creativity to the modern artist and now opens a door to a cool oasis of beauty and artistry within the town.
Situated upon a spectacular clifftop, at the end of Cornwall is PK Porthcurno – the ‘museum that explores the story of how the world connects’. The museum is the site of one of the some of the most key moments in the history of technology and communication. Often overlooked by the genuinely breath-taking Minack Theatre, this museum has an incredible history and fascinating stories to tell. A famous theatre, a beautiful beach and quite literally beneath it all are the secrets to be discovered.
Created in the husks of a former Redruth Brewery, Kresen Kernow is an archive and exhibition site that is home to the world’s largest collection of documents, books, films and photographs relating to Cornwall. A beautifully designed building, Kresen Kernow is also a pivotal champion of the Cornish Language. This summer Kresen Kernow will host and exhibit the remarkable medieval Ordinalia Manuscripts – a rare chance of Cornish history coming home and an opportunity not to be missed.
This museum holds staggering collections from Cornwall and around the world. From Egyptian Mummies, Fine Art, Natural History and World Cultures. It has long been an integral part of Cornish education, with its ability to provide access to such rich world history and it is certainly worth a return visit as adults. There is much to be discovered.
The Wheal Martyn Trust hosts a fantastic museum and museum-landscape that is full of interactive and engaging history. The china clay of Wheal Martyn made its way to the tea set of Catherine The Great of Russia. It may be a history that is embedded in Cornwall but it is also a history of our world that it invites you to uncover and learn.