Richard Brewer remembers as a little boy sitting in front of the fire at home with his mother and father saying “I want to be an archaeologist”. Now the Keeper of Archaeology at Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales, Richard looks back on how it all began.
Richard’s first contact with the Museum was at the age of 15 when he wrote to Dr Hubert Savoury, then the Keeper of Archaeology. “I want to be an archaeologist…please accept me…” was the gist of it, and Richard remembers Dr Savoury’s diplomatic yet polite response that now wasn’t the right time for him, but if he was really determined, and if this was something that he really wanted, then a few more years training at University was needed first.
Richard was determined to gain as much experience as possible. One year later he volunteered to take part in an excavation at the Medieval Castle at Lougher, which he thoroughly enjoyed and learned a lot from the experience. He then went on to study archaeology at the Institute of Archaeology, London, and graduated in 1976.
After graduating, Richard had nothing to do and thought what a good time this would be to contact the Museum once again. On November 15 1976, Richard started work with John Lewis, then the Assistant Keeper of Archaeology at Amgueddfa Cymru, cataloguing the Museum’s vast collection of brass rubbings for no more than £15 per week in cash to cover expenses.
By September 1978, he was appointed as a Research Assistant for Roman Archaeology at the Legionary Museum Caerleon, and soon after this, he started work directing excavations at Caerwent for 16 summer seasons. In 1985, Richard moved on to become Assistant Keeper of Roman Archaeology. He was appointed as Acting Keeper of Archaeology in 1996, and one year later, in 1997, he became the Keeper of Archaeology, Amgueddfa Cymru.
Richard loves his day-to-day job, and strongly believes that archaeology is all about people – bringing the past to life. He feels that the Origins gallery in particular, opened in 2007 at National Museum Cardiff as part of the Museum’s centenary celebrations, is indeed one of the ‘high spots’ of his career. “This exhibition displays how rich our collections really are.”
His achievements and successes so far include an addition in Who’s Who for the last 3 years, he’s Chair of the Ancient Monuments Advisory Board, Chair of the Young Archaeologist’s Advisory Panel, and is the Editor of Britannia.
When Richard is not running a tight ship in the Archaeology Department at Amgueddfa Cymru, he runs a lot. He has completed no less than 32 marathons in all, the longest one being in Biel, Switzerland when he completed 100K! He also enjoys a tap dancing lesson every Wednesday night, and he’s a Cardiff City season ticket holder. And if this wasn’t enough, he’s a qualified racing driver too!
Richard will have been with Amgueddfa Cymru for 33 years in November this year. He is one of the finest examples of how volunteering can lead to an extraordinary career. Here’s to the next thirty three!