National Museum Cardiff
Discover art, archaeology, natural history and geology. With a busy programme of exhibitions and events, we have something to amaze everyone, whatever your interest – and admission is free!
Although not the oldest of Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales’s buildings, this is the first location of National Museum Wales, officially opened in 1927.
Situated in the heart of Cardiff’s elegant civic centre, today it houses Wales’s national archaeology, art, geology and natural history collections, as well as major touring and temporary exhibitions.
Discover the secrets of our ancestors from the Neanderthals a quarter of a million years ago in the Archaeology gallery, Origins: in search of early Wales. Everyday objects and beautiful artefacts tell the stories of people in Wales and explore our links with the past.
The Art collection at National Museum Cardiff is one of Europe's finest. See five hundred years of magnificent paintings, drawings, sculpture, silver and ceramics from Wales and across the world, including one of Europe's best collections of Impressionist works.
Take an amazing journey in Evolution of Wales from the very beginning of time to the present day. The story begins in space with the Big Bang and takes you on a 4,600 million-year journey, bringing you face to face with dinosaurs and woolly mammoths. Find out how life evolved in Wales and which dinosaurs roamed the land.
Witness the diverse Natural History of Wales on an expedition which begins at the seashore and ends in the mountains. Experience some of the unique environments that make Wales home to over 900 Sites of Special Scientific Interest.
Open Bank holidays
The Welsh national archaeology, art, geology, botany and zoology collections. Highlights include one of the finest Impressionist art collections in Europe and the 'Evolution of Wales' exhibition - the history of Wales from the Big Bang until today, complete with dinosaurs and woolly mammoth.
Archaeology, Coins and Medals, Decorative and Applied Art, Fine Art, Natural Sciences
Key artists and exhibits
- La Parisienne
- The Blue Lady
- The Kiss
- Evolution of Wales
Thomas Henry Thomas (1839-1915) in Focus
- 29 September 2015 — 22 May 2016 *on now
2015 marks the centenary of the death of the artist and polymath Thomas Henry Thomas. Born in Pontypool in 1839, Thomas was a passionate amateur practitioner who pursued a career as an artist and illustrator alongside wide-ranging interests in botany, geology, history, archaeology and what we would today call ethnography. As a keen promoter of Welsh culture and cultural identity, Thomas was one of the driving forces behind the creation of Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales. He developed the modern Welsh flag, pushed for Wales’ inclusion in the Union Jack and in 1895 became the first Herald Bard of the Gorsedd. On his death, he left a large collection of artworks, specimens and artefacts to Amgueddfa Cymru.
This small display introduces visitors to Thomas’s world, bringing together images and objects to give a glimpse into the life and work of this remarkable man.
- Any age
Reading the Rocks: the Remarkable Maps of William Smith
- 26 October 2015 — 28 February 2016 *on now
When the industrial revolution was in full swing, the demand for coal, iron and limestone was huge. William Smith, a blacksmith’s son from Oxfordshire, realised that a map showing where different rock layers (strata) came to the surface would be of great value.
200 years later, Smith’s beautifully hand-coloured maps are icons in the world of geology. Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum of Wales holds more original versions of these huge, spectacular maps than any other public institution in the world. Three different editions are fully displayed in this exhibition along with unique documents and smaller maps, all depicting the story of Smith’s life and work.
Smith’s monumental work of 1815, A Delineation of the Strata of England and Wales, with part of Scotland, represents over fifteen years of single-handed mapping of over 175,000 square kilometres of Britain. It is widely regarded as the first true geological map of any country.
Smith’s ground-breaking discovery was that the strata of southern Britain always occur in a regular order and are all tilted in the same direction. He also recognised that he could use fossils to identify where a layer of rock occurred in the sequence. He immediately saw the practical application of these ideas and set out to construct a map showing the presence of different rocks at the surface, and therefore where coal and other raw materials could be found.
Smith travelled widely across the country, working as a land surveyor and drainer, noting the rocks and landscapes as he went. In this way, he gradually built up the information he needed for his map. Although he had originally obtained 400 subscribers to his map, few paid in advance, and it took so long to complete that some of them had died before it was finished. These financial problems led him to a spell in a debtor’s prison in 1819.
The gentleman-geologists of the time had initially looked down upon Smith’s discoveries, but by 1831 a new generation of scientists gave him the recognition and financial security that he had long sought and proclaimed him “The Father of English Geology”.
- Any age
Silent Explosion: Ivor Davies and Destruction in Art
- 14 November 2015 — 20 March 2016 *on now
Silent Explosion is a major exhibition by Ivor Davies - one of Wales’ leading contemporary artists. It reveals Davies’ enduring interest in the creative power of destruction and features work in various media including painting, sculpture and performance, spanning the artist’s career from the 1940s through to the present day.
Using destruction as a guiding theme, the exhibition links back to Davies’ childhood with drawings made during the Second World War showing the bombing of Penarth. This interest in destruction is traced through to paintings and other works made in the last decade that explore the artist’s political engagement with the language and culture of Wales.
At the heart of the exhibition is an internationally important archive detailing Davies’ contribution to the 1960s avant-garde movement and in particular the landmark Destruction in Art Symposium (DIAS). DIAS took place in London in 1966 and featured performances and presentations by a radical group of artists and thinkers, including international figures such as Gustav Metzger, Yoko Ono, Ralph Ortiz and the Viennese Actionists.
Using archive film and creative installations, Silent Explosion pieces together an extraordinary series of performances and happenings staged by Davies in Edinburgh, London, Bristol and Swansea between 1966-68.
Silent Explosion is supported by the Colwinston Charitable Trust with additional support from The Henry Moore Foundation. The exhibition is co-curated by Judit Bodor, doctoral researcher at Aberystwyth University, supported by a Collaborative Doctoral Award funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council.
- Any age
Augustus John in Focus
- 21 November 2015 — 30 September 2016 *on now
Augustus John (1878-1961) was a leading artist of his generation. He was a wonderful colourist and draughtsman and for a time, one of the most exciting modernist artists in Britain.
This display brings together a selection of paintings, watercolours, drawings and prints from the Museum’s extensive collection by this important Welsh artist. It will focus on images of his family, friends and celebrated sitters as well as his fascination with gypsy culture.
- Any age
Treasures: Adventures in Archaeology
- 26 January — 30 October 2016 *on now
Step into the world of famous explorers and travel on an adventure uncovering treasures from around the world at this exciting new exhibition at National Museum Cardiff.
To celebrate 2016, The Year of Adventure in Wales, we're hosting extraordinary treasures from popular culture including the hat, whip and jacket of Indiana Jones, crystal skulls, Inca gold and early finds such as Egyptian Mummies.
Book your tickets online in advance to avoid disappointment for this inspirational exhibition.
- Any age
£7 adults (17 years and over)
£5 concessions (over 60s, unwaged, in full-time education, NUS cardholders)
Free to everyone 16 years and under. Under 12s must be accompanied by an adult.
Family Art Workshops: Silent Explosion
- 16 — 19 February 2016
Get inspired by the work of the wonderful Welsh artist Ivor Davies, and then create something amazing to take home.
- Family friendly
A Long War and a Troubled Peace: Economy and Society in South Wales c1800-1820
- 24 February 2016 From 1:05pm
A Long War and a Troubled Peace: Economy and Society in South Wales c1800-1820' by Professor Bill Jones, Professor of Welsh History, Cardiff University.
A talk linked to our exhibition Reading the Rocks: the Remarkable Maps of William Smith.
The events programme for the Smith Maps Exhibition is kindly supported by SRK Consulting.
Ivor Davies exhibition seminar: Conservation Conversation
- 25 February 2016 From 2pm
Conservation Conversation: How to conserve material transformation and destruction?
The first seminar of the series Exhibition Matters focuses on questions of time and materiality in art through the conservators’ and curators’ experience with Davies’ paintings and performance remains.
Judit Bodor with Emily O'Reilly (Principal Conservator Paper, National Museum Wales) and Rose Miller (Senior Conservator Easel Painting, National Museum Wales).
- Any age
Ivor Davies exhibition seminar: Remembering Performance
- 3 March 2016 From 2pm
Remembering Performance - Performing Memory: Using oral history to document performance histories.
The second seminar of the series Exhibition Matters builds on Professor Heike Roms’ (Aberystwyth University) long-term interest in the historiography of Davies’ 1960s performances and will focus on using oral history as method of archiving and curating historic performance.
Judit Bodor with Heike Roms (Professor in Performance Studies, Aberystwyth University).
- Any age
Ivor Davies exhibition seminar: Towards ‘Silent Explosion’
- 10 March 2016 From 2pm
Towards ‘Silent Explosion’: Curatorial dilemmas, processes and decisions in exhibiting historic performance.
The final seminar of the series Exhibition Matters.
This seminar will focus on the curatorial process of displaying ‘Adam on St Agnes’ Eve 1968/2015’ in Gallery 21, exploring the collaborative process of ‘remediation’ in transforming a historic performance into a gallery installation.
Judit Bodor with Nicholas Thornton (Head of Contemporary and Modern Art, National Museum Wales) and Chris Hardwick (Technical Officer, AV, National Museum Wales).
- Any age
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