Some of RAMM’s most important collectors have fascinating life stories. Here you can read about significant collectors and discover how the way museums collect has changed over time.
The origin of RAMM’s diverse collection lies in the early 19th century. The story begins with the Devon and Exeter Institution founded in Exeter in 1813. Its members acquired significant natural science specimens and world cultures artefacts from around the globe. Other important early collections came from F.W.L. Ross, W.S.M. D’Urban and Henry Vaughan, which included artefacts from Captain Cook’s voyages.
In the 19th century the museum was international in scope, reflecting the prominent role played by Devonian families in the army, navy and colonial services, as well as among missionaries and traders. Their collecting methods were very different from those we recognise today. Collectors were fired by curiosity but gave little thought to conserving natural habitats or recording information on how objects were used.
In the early 20th century, the Percy Sladen echinoderm collection and C.V.A. Peel’s collection of mammals arrived at RAMM, including the famous giraffe ‘Gerald’. Benefactors to the art collection included Sir Harry Veitch, who bequeathed a large personal collection of art. The antiquities collection expanded considerably after 1930 with medieval woodwork from Harry Hems and Colonel Leopold Montague’s bequest of classical antiquities and ethnographic artefacts.
The nature of collecting has changed considerably since RAMM’s formation. RAMM adheres to all legislation on the global import, export and sale of material as well as wildlife protection laws. RAMM’s Collections Development Policy outlines the museum’s attitude towards collecting and the areas where active collecting continues to take place.