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THE HISTORY OF MUSEUMS
IN CEREDIGION
The first plans for a public museum in Aberystwyth were discussed in
1871 exactly 100 years before the first meetings took place to form the
present Ceredigion Museum. Ceredigion Museum was established in April
1972 and by the time it celebrated its 25th anniversary in 1997 it had
acquired nearly 40,000 items, and over a quarter of a million people had
seen the displays and over 300 temporary exhibitions had been arranged.
This paper describes the history of museums in Ceredigion during those first
100 years and goes on to show shows how much of a role the Ceredigion
Antiquarians played in the formation of Ceredigion Museum.
Early Attempts
The first public museum in Britain was the Ashmolean, Oxford, formed in
1683 with the Tradescant collection amongst others. One of its first curators
was the Welshman, Edward Llhuyd. With an increasing interest in the past
during the eighteenth century came the establishment of private collection of
antiquities, natural history specimens and ethnography, so by the nineteenth
century private museums were opening to the public and legislation allowed
for the establishment of public ones. However, by the end of the nineteenth
century only a few museums had been formed in Wales.
There were a few significant private collections of Welsh material such as
that of Samuel Rush Meyrick who had collections at Goodrich,
Herefordshire including four of the Roman inscriptions from Llanio. Some
of the gold items found at Dolaucothi were briefly at Hafod and later made
their way to the British Museum.2 The contents of other local great houses,
other than Nanteos (see below), which might have formed part of a local
museum collection, are not covered here.
In the first volume of Archaeologia Cambrensis in 1846, H. Longueville
Jones wrote in an article entitled 'On the Study and Preservation of National
Antiquities': 'whenever an antiquary society can be formed, there also ought
a museum for the reception of local antiquities to be established.'3 He also
published several other articles encouraging the establishment of County
museums. The first public museum to be opened in Wales was formed by the
Swansea Philosophical and Literary Society, later the Royal Institution of
South Wales in Swansea in 1835, and the purpose built museum made
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