Our collections are Designated as being of National Significance and are a unique resource for those researching the archaeology, history, art or natural history of Wiltshire.

The collections are used by many different people, including school children undertaking projects, college students, undergraduates, graduates and post-graduates preparing dissertations and theses, as well as members of the public undertaking personal projects including family history research.

Our small staff do what we can to help researchers and enquirers and to give access to the reserve collections of the Museum, Archive and Library.


Research Overview

Over the past decade, we have welcomed more than 300 researchers from universities across the country to study the collections. This has helped to build our reputation as a centre of academic research, making the Wiltshire Museum a focal point for some of the latest scholarly work undertaken and ultimately increasing our knowledge of the past. Many of these researchers have come to study our nationally important archaeology collections, which includes numerous artefacts excavated in the landscapes surrounding the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site, as well as the documentary archives that record their discovery. As a whole, the Museum collections record the archaeology, history and environment of Wiltshire.

Accessing Museum Collections

In order to support your area of study, we encourage you to think about your research needs in advance of your visit. This helps us to prepare the material in advance, making sure that your time and ours is spent effectively. The Museum has a small curatorial staff and so research visits are by appointment only. The Curator works part-time and the Archive & Library is run by a part-time member of staff, supported by a team of volunteers.

Your query may be dealt with by different members of staff, so please use the general email address–, or send a letter addressed to the Curator.

Your initial correspondence should include the following information:-

  • Brief project outline identifying your research topic
  • Email / letter of recommendation from your supervisor
  • Evidence that you have conducted preliminary research, including searching the Museum’s online collections database - Where possible, in advance of your visit, you will need to supply the Museum with the accession numbers of the material you would like to see (DZSWS:)
  • Where relevant, you should provide evidence that you are competent to handle fragile / sensitive collections.

There is usually a 2 months-notice period to access Museum collections - archaeology, recent history, art and natural history. Research in the Archive and Library, looking at documentary material, can be arranged with 2-3 weeks-notice.

When you visit us, please bring a form of identification with a photograph - such as a passport, university ID card or driving licence.

Destructive Analysis and Sampling of Collections

Any request for destructive analysis or sampling is considered by the WANHS Board of Trustees and requires their approval. The Board meet every 2-3 months, but it may be possible in some circumstances for the request to be fast-tracked. All requests for destructive analysis should be sent to the Curator, who will make a recommendation to the Trustees on your behalf.

Loan Arrangements

Any request to borrow items from the collections is considered by the WANHS Board of Trustees, and requires their approval. All considerations will include meeting the standard requirements for insurance, security and environmental conditions. All loan requests should be sent to the Curator, who will make a recommendation to the Trustees on your behalf.

Sharing Your Research

The Museum has recently been awarded a grant from the Arts Council England Designation Development Fund, to review the research undertaken on its collections. A Wealth of Knowledge: Unlocking a Decade of Archaeological Research is a joint project between us here in Devizes and the Salisbury Museum. A large number of researchers visit the two museums to consult the collections, but only a fraction of the research results have, as yet, been fed back into collections databases and gallery displays.

Therefore, on the completion of your studies, we kindly request that you deposit of copy of your research with the Museums, so it can be used to update the collections databases. We are delighted to accept all articles, theses and books which contain the results of the research that you have undertaken on our collections and these will be accessioned in our Archive & Library collection.

We also ask, where appropriate, that you consider allowing us to make a short video of your visit - describing your research objectives, to share with the wider public. We have recently started a new project to record researchers who come to the Museum to study the archaeology collections. If you would like to be a part of this, the Curator will explain the detail of what is required prior to your visit.








Collections highlights

Far from the Madding Crowd – 1967 film

Many scenes in the 1967 film of 'Far from the Madding Crowd' were shot in Devizes. The production turned Devizes Market Place back in time

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3 glass beads of a blue colour with circular white decoration

Iron Age – glass beads

Found in Swallowcliffe, these beads are from the Iron Age and show the innovation they had during this time, this was the first-time glass was

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Collection of Melksham photographs

Volunteer Anna has taken an indepth look at one of her local towns, Melksham. She has discovered photographs of the area in our archive. Melksham,

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Microscope belonging to William Cunnington III

William Cunnington III was the driving force behind the founding of the Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society in 1853. He was the grandson of

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Copyright: Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society