The Wiltshire Heritage Museum, Library and Gallery were set up and are administered by the Wiltshire Archaeological & Natural History Society (WANHS), founded in Devizes in 1853, after the acquisition of the John Britton library of topographical and antiquarian books and manuscripts by a group of Wiltshire gentlemen. The inaugural meeting resolved to form a society ‘to cultivate and collect information on archaeology and Natural History in their various branches and to form a Library and Museum illustrating the History, natural, civic and ecclesiastic of the County of Wilts’. Most of the original members were clergymen and landed gentry.
The Museum and Library have been at their current location in Long Street since 1873, occupying first the old Victorian Devizes Grammar School, then the two Georgian houses on either side of the Entrance Hall. Further extensions have increased its size to the present day. It has overseen many of the famous excavations on Salisbury Plain and the Marlborough Downs made by the Cunnington family and is a repository of the artefacts and writings of earlier antiquaries such as Sir Richard Colt Hoare of Stourhead House.
Its collecting area once covered the whole of the county, although this is now shared with neighbouring museums like the Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum and the Alexander Keiller Museum at Avebury. Today the Museum is still collecting, and provides a valuable service in identifying and recording artefacts recovered both professionally and by members of the public interested in the increasingly popular subject of archaeology.
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