Fossil plant

The rocks, minerals and fossils we find all around us help us to understand the geological history of the Earth from its origins around 4,600 million years ago, and the processes involved in forming and shaping the earth's crust. In particular, our collections provide evidence for how the Wales we know today has evolved over 700 million years. These specimens record how Wales has drifted from the southern hemisphere to its present-day setting 52° north of the equator.

Arrow pointing right
Read more stories about our Natural History collections on our Rhagor website.

Understanding this evolution and the processes behind it is essential if we are to manage the Earth's environment at the same time as exploiting its resources.

We hold extensive collections and particular expertise in:

  • Palaeozoic invertebrates, especially brachiopods, trilobites, bryozoans
  • Mezozoic molluscs, notably Jurassic ammonites and bivalves
  • Palaeozoic plants, with particular strengths in Silurian-Devonian and upper Carboniferous floras
  • Studies of fossil biodiversity cover all aspects of taxonomy, evolution, biogeography and palaeoecology.
Basalt under a microscope
  • Volcanic rocks and processes, especially of Ordovician and Paleogene ages
  • Low grade metamorphism
  • Geochemistry
  • Evolution of Palaeozoic sedimentary facies
  • Precambrian subduction complexes
  • Definitive collections of Welsh minerals with accompanying databases for mine sites.

In addition, the Department has:

  • Comprehensive collections of geological and topographical maps for the U.K. and many foreign regions
  • Important biographical and historical documents related to the early development of the geological sciences.
  • A large library covering all aspects of palaeontology, mineralogy and petrology.
Fieldwork, Aberystwyth

The collections are an invaluable resource. We encourage you to appreciate this resource by viewing it, researching it and, most importantly, by adding to it.

Go out and look at the landscape: it reflects 700 million years of history! Our staff are here to help you appreciate and understand it.

AND FINALLY - come and take the opportunity to see our acclaimed exhibition The Evolution of Wales, a fabulous journey through time and space as you follow Wales across the planet from its origins millions of years ago. The story is brought to life by film, sound, light and spectacular specimens.

  • National Museum Cardiff

    National Museum Cardiff

    Discover art, 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!

  • St Fagans National History Museum

    St Fagans

    St Fagans is one of Europe's foremost open-air museums and Wales's most popular heritage attraction.

  • Big Pit National Coal Museum

    Big Pit

    Big Pit is a real coal mine and one of Britain's leading mining museums. With facilities to educate and entertain all ages, Big Pit is an exciting and informative day out.

  • National Wool Museum

    National Wool Museum

    Located in the historic former Cambrian Mills, the Museum is a special place with a spellbinding story to tell.

  • National Roman Legion Museum

    National Roman Legion Museum

    In AD 75, the Romans built a fortress at Caerleon that would guard the region for over 200 years. Today at the National Roman Legion Museum you can learn what made the Romans a formidable force and how life wouldn't be the same without them.

  • National Slate Museum

    National Slate Museum

    The National Slate Museum offers a day full of enjoyment and education in a dramatically beautiful landscape on the shores of Llyn Padarn.

  • National Waterfront Museum

    National Waterfront Museum

    The National Waterfront Museum at Swansea tells the story of industry and innovation in Wales, now and over the last 300 years.

  • Rhagor: Explore our collections

    Rhagor (Welsh for ‘more’) offers unprecedented access to the amazing stories that lie behind our collections.