The Museum’s collections span the history and archaeology of Salisbury and south Wiltshire, from prehistoric times to the present day. The Museum is Designated by the Arts Council as having archaeology collections of outstanding national importance.
Stonehenge is a unique monument standing at the heart of an extensive archaeological landscape on Salisbury Plain. Finds from excavations at Stonehenge are held at the Museum, as well as important discoveries such as the Monkton Deverill Torc and the Amesbury Archer burial.
As well as collecting objects from Stonehenge, the Museum has an extensive range of paintings, prints and drawings of the monument. These include some of the earliest known depictions of the stone circle, as well as works by contemporary artists.
The Roman collections reflect the rural nature of south Wiltshire and include finds from villas and farms. From the Anglo-Saxon period there is a remarkable array of grave goods from cemeteries found locally. The Warminster Jewel, an Anglo-Saxon manuscript pointer, is one of the Museum’s greatest treasures.
The medieval collections include a huge number of everyday items found in the old drainage channels that used to run through the streets of Salisbury. The Museum also has items from archaeological excavations at Old Sarum, Clarendon Palace and the medieval pottery kilns at Laverstock.
Pitt Rivers was one of the leading anthropologists and archaeologists of the Victorian age. He is regarded as having been a generation ahead of his time and is often described as the 'father of scientific archaeology.' In 1975 Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum was gifted the Wessex collections by HM Treasury. Here they are used to illustrate the life and work of this extraordinary man.
The Museum has an outstanding collection of ceramics. Local Verwood and Wiltshire Brown ware is represented alongside the celebrated Wedgwood, Bow and Chelsea potteries.
The Museum has over 4,000 paintings, prints and drawings. These represent local personalities, topographical scenes, special events and everyday life. Included in the collection are five watercolours by J M W Turner, a pencil drawing by John Constable and works by Augustus John and Rex Whistler.
Clothes relating to the lives of people in and around Salisbury from the past 250 years are represented, including wedding dresses, uniforms and formal wear. The Museum also has lace samples produced by the Downton Lace Industry.
Salisbury had many local businesses that supplied the needs of the town and the surrounding area. Silversmiths, gunsmiths and cutlers are just some of the manufacturers that thrived in Georgian and Victorian times.