research activities


Over the years the Museum has maintained a high research profile with an impressive list of peer-reviewed publications. Museum staff have a high academic standing. A large number are honorary lecturers and research fellows at Cardiff, Swansea, Bangor Universities and the University of South Wales. They also hold offices in learned societies and act as expert advisors to Government and NGOs. The Museum has also attracted funding from Research Councils, including the AHRC and NERC, as well as prestigious organisations such as the Leverhulme Trust and the Royal Society.


New research includes a project funded by Paul Hamlyn, ‘More and Better’ - a follow-on to the successful ‘Our Museum’ initiative that helped us work more effectively with community partners. This will see museum staff and a research associate explore how to embed collaborative and citizen-centred forms of museum practice across the institution. A large programme of research, underpinned by these principles, is currently informing the selection and interpretation of material for the St Fagan’s redevelopment project that will result in a completely new set of visitor facilities and exhibitions at the site. Extensive collaboration with the public, through workshops on co-curation and through the recruitment of volunteers, is informing the evolution of these new displays.


Research in the Natural Sciences department is at the forefront of a number of important new areas of scientific enquiry. For example, we have major and internationally-significant capacity in research methods that assist in the tracking and understanding of climate change. For example, we have specialisms in a range of important bio-indicators that can reveal the qualitative health of ecological systems, including the study of molluscs, lichens, moss animals (bryozoans) and algae (diatoms). For example, our diatom specialist has established a partnership with Kathmandu University to study how algae can be used to indicate water quality in the Himalayas and in Wales. Geological research into the chemistry of igneous rocks, in partnership with archaeological experts at UCL, is currently in the process of revealing startling and globally-significant new evidence about the source of the Stonehenge bluestones.

We also have particular expertise in archaeological research, centred on excavations and post-excavation analysis that provide new information and evidence about key questions in Welsh history, and the spread of ideas and practices across the ancient Western world. Expertise covers the range from pre-history to the modern day. One strand of research explores social identities, beliefs and depositional practices within early metalworking societies, with particular emphasis on the material cultures of western Britain. Another strand of research focuses on early medieval and medieval Wales, in particular the archaeology and material culture of its early fortified settlements. Numismatic expertise centres on Roman Imperial and early modern British coinage, and analysis of manufacturing techniques and hoards. Our Roman specialists, based at the National Roman Legion Museum at Caerleon, focus on the Western Frontier of Britannia and carry out detailed research into ceramic altars and mosaics.

In industrial history we have specialisms in Welsh maritime and shipping history, including ship-owners and shipping companies, in women’s roles and East European workers in the Welsh coal industry, in non-ferrous metal mining and copper-smelting in Wales, as well as the growth of factory work and its post-War industrial evolution. The industrial and maritime collections are based at the Swansea Waterfront Museum. Social history includes the study of socio-linguistic patterns, Welsh dialectology, oral history, nineteenth and twentieth-century Welsh women’s history, and the history of public health, disabilities and medicine. This research centres on the substantial oral history archives and material collections at our St. Fagans site.

Research also centres on particular aspects of the collections in order to support their digitization, including the photography collections and natural history type specimens. Conservation of our collections is similarly informed by research, such as studying the effects of pesticide residues in natural history objects, the changing condition over time of fluid-preserved specimens or the effect of indoor pollution and elevated temperatures on mineral collections. Research is also essential in the exploitation of knowledge based in our collections. For example, our curators make contributions to definitive taxonomic works, surveys of current plant and animal populations, DNA analysis or the interpretation of patterns of continental drift.