The museum holds approximately 50,000 artefacts from across the ancient world and is notable for its Egyptian, Greek, Roman and Anglo-Saxon collections. With the exception of numismatics, armoury and weapons our collections are from before approximately 1200 AD.
The collections of the antiquities department have grown for over 150 years through gifts, bequests, purchases and subscriptions to archaeological excavations. The collections incorporate the surviving parts of Joseph Mayer's extensive collection of antiquities which he donated to the city in 1867. Mayer's collection is based on purchases of important collections put together in the early 1800s and is of international historical importance.