Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales

Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales cares for over 700 specimens from the HMS Challenger (1872-76) voyage. Most of the collections are molluscs (spirit preserved squid and cuttlefish and dried gastropod and bivalve shells) but around 50 geological samples are also present. The collections are held at National Museum Cardiff.

HMS Challenger and Amgueddfa Cymru

Specimens arrived at the museum from two main sources:

  • Donated by William Hoyle the scientist who wrote the report on the Cephalopoda collected on the voyage
  • Donated by James Cosmo Melvill and John Read le Brockton Tomlin. These two men collected shells through purchase and exchange and their Challenger material is presumed to have come via E.A. Smith and R.B. Watson.

William Hoyle was a cephalopod expert (a group of molluscs that includes cuttlefish, octopuses and squid). He became director of the National Museum of Wales in 1909 and was very influential in the museums development as an architecturally outstanding building and as a concept. He was very highly regarded as a scientist and museum director. 

About Amgueddfa Cymru

Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales is a family of seven national museums across Wales: the National Slate Museum, Llanberis; the National Wool Museum, Dre-fach Felindre; National Museum Cardiff; the National Waterfront Museum, Swansea; Big Pit National Coal Museum, Blaenafon; the National Roman Legion Museum, Caerleon and St Fagans National History Museum, Cardiff, and the National Collections Centre at Nantgarw. 
The Museum receives nearly 1.7 million visitors annually across all sites which range from open air sites, galleries and research facilities. They employ over 130 curators and conservators to develop, research and care for the collections.

Wider collections

Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales have extensive collections of over 4.7 million objects including important holdings in archaeology, art, biodiversity, geology, and social and industrial history. The breadth and quality of many of our collections in the humanities and sciences alike make us unique amongst UK national museums. 
The Natural History collections include around 700,000 insects, over 500,000 plants, 33,000 vertebrates, over 1,000,000 molluscs, along with thousands of fluid preserved specimens. They also include around 72,000 petrology and mineral specimens and over 650,000 paleontology specimens with specific reference to Wales. There are also important archival collections including 9000 botanical prints includes works by masters of botanical illustration such as Ehret, Redouté and Fitch. Also those relating to the history of geology including the De la Beche archive, and the immensely important historic geological map collection, including the World’s finest collection of William Smith maps.
The art collection is one of Europe’s finest covering five hundred years of magnificent paintings, drawings, sculpture, silver and ceramics from Wales and across the world, including one of Europe’s best collections of Impressionist works. The Archaeology collections cover prehistory to Medieval, as well as the social & industrial history of Wales.
Many objects in our collection have very considerable financial value, such as Renoir’s ‘Blue Lady’, amongst many other pictures, whilst our science departments hold many ‘type specimens’, which have a literally unique scientific value. Some of our collections originate from private and institutional collections established well before the founding of the Museum, such as the important shell collections of Melvill and Tomlin, and the natural history, archaeology, art and social history collections of the old Cardiff Museum, which effectively formed the founding collection of the institution. Other collections were donated or bequeathed as complete entities at a later date – the Davies bequest of Impressionist paintings, and the Bangor University Insect Collection are two examples – whilst other collections have been built up patiently by Museum staff over many years.
Visit the website to find out more about the collections.


The Melvill-Tomlin collection

William Evans Hoyle (1855-1926)

World Octopus Day blog post

Using Amgueddfa Cymru’s data

Permission has been given to use specimen information and photographs in accordance with Creative Commons CC BY NC SA.


For enquiries relating to the geological collections please email Andrew Haycock

For enquiries relating to the zoological collections please email Harriet Wood

A selection of Amgueddfa Cymru’s Challenger specimens

See all of Amgueddfa Cymru’s Challenger specimens