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A history of the Department

The Collections Centre in Nantgarw
The Collections Centre in Nantgarw

The massive changes to all aspects of Welsh industry in the post Second World War years prompted the National Museum of Wales in 1959 to establish the Department of Industry to collect and record in the fields of industry, maritime trade and transport.

Prior to the establishment of the Department of Industry, the Geology Department undertook limited collecting in the fields of economic geology and, to a lesser degree, the fields of Welsh industry, maritime trade and transportation. As a result, when David Morgan Rees (1913-1978), the first head of the Department of Industry, was appointed in 1959, there was the nucleus of a collection to build upon.

Morgan Rees not only built up the Department by collecting artefacts from old and new Welsh industries and by extensive photographic recording of disappearing aspects of industry, but also lectured, broadcast and published widely. He played a leading role in the establishment and popularisation in Wales of the then new subject of industrial archaeology and helped ensure the preservation of many industrial monuments in a period that saw extensive reclamation of former industrial sites.

The Department outgrew its home in the National Museum's city centre site and in 1977 commenced its move to the newly established Welsh Industrial & Maritime Museum, a branch of the National Museum of Wales, in Cardiff Docks. The new museum building was initially intended as the first of four galleries to be constructed around the West Bute Basin, but the 1980s saw more modest expansion into a number of historic buildings in the Cardiff Bay area, under Dr Geraint Jenkins (Curator 1979-1987), and Dr Stuart Owen-Jones (Keeper 1987-1998).

When the Welsh Industrial & Maritime Museum was opened it was in a declining portion of Cardiff Docks. The following decade, the Cardiff Bay Development Corporation was established but as redevelopment of Cardiff Bay proceeded, so the future of the Museum became less certain. After some years of uncertainty the decision was made to relocate the Museum; there were many suggestions for new sites and after detailed consideration, including a public consultation exercise, Swansea - Wales's second city - was selected.

After the closure of the Welsh Industrial & Maritime Museum in 1998, over 2,000 large artefacts were moved to the new Collections Centre at Nantgarw, just north of Cardiff. The smaller collections, archives, photographic collections and library followed in 2000 after the development of the Archive Resource Centre within the Collections Centre. We are planning extensive further development of the Collections Centre and the Archive Resource Centre to house research collections from across the Museum in a modern and accessible storage facility that will lead to their enhanced use by specialists and the public alike.