“Where there’s a mine or a hole in the ground, that is where to look for, that is where I am found. Where copper and arsenic, clay and tin run through blood, get under your skin” “Cousin Jack” Show of Hands, 2010 Specimen Collecting at its BEST!
Cornwall has been (and currently is remerging as) an active centre of hard rock mining for more than 4000 years. From the bronze age workers selling white metal to Phoenician traders to the copper and tin mining companies of the nineteenth century that promoted and paid for mining innovations that are still active today. The county has been firmly rooted in mining as a major part of the economy and culture. But these miners were not illiterate workers but the foundation of strong stable family oriented communities who due to strong religious and social zeal of many mine owners had access to free schools and libraries not realised before by common people. They read and they learnt. A culture of collecting minerals was born amongst the common miners not just mine owners and consequently the mineral heritage was preserved and expanded. During the expansion of the “New World” in the nineteenth century Cornish miners brought innovation Cornish engineering (and pasties) and their collections to many parts of the world. They brought their culture including the practice of preserving ore specimens and crystals from the mines as well as bringing a small part of Cornwall with them. Consequently, many antique specimens travelled to the furthest reaches of the world, to new camps and these collections were augmented with specimens of Broken Hill smithsonite, Burra Burra malachite, Californian gold and Bisbee azurite. Cornwall gave birth to a legacy of practical engineering, mineral collecting, culture and stability to many mining camps the world over, not just in Cornwall. This presentation will explore the legacy of “Cousin Jack” (as Cornish miners were called) and the rich inheritance associated with the county. From ancient times to the modern, Cornwall continues to contribute to the mineral knowledge and heritage of our planet.