Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

(Front door MAA Downing Street Copyright MAA)

What is the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology?

The Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (MAA), Cambridge England, is part of the wider University of Cambridge Museum’s (UCM) group and as our name suggests our focus is archaeology and anthropology. Founded in 1884 and moving to our large current Downing Street site in 1913 the MAA has a nationally important collection of over 1 million objects spanning 2 million years of history from across the planet.

Across our three floors we have four galleries open to the public (more on that a little later). As well as caring for our collection our professional curatorial staff conduct research and support visiting students and colleagues to access and research our collection.

The MAA recognises that not all objects in Western museum collections were collected ethically and where appropriate works to redress this (please see website for further details).

Why do I volunteer at the MAA?

‘Why visiting a museum is good for everyone: cultural heritage, health and wellbeing’ is the title of a lecture delivered by Professor Helen Chatterjee (Human and Ecological Health, University College London) at the Department of Zoology in Cambridge on the 2nd February 2023. Museums are good for your health.

Many people need an escape from their regular life of family and work, that quiet sanctuary or few moments of peace, for me I find that in music (that’s the best decade for music the 80’s) and museums as a visitor and a volunteer.

So why volunteer at the MAA? I like being in an environment of learning, of knowledge or being surrounded by the ‘wider world’, but you can get that in many museums. There was something special about the 2nd floor atrium style Andrews gallery looking down into the 1st floor Maudslay gallery that just appealed to me, being in the Andrews with rain drumming on the roof or the Maudslay as dusk falls and the light lowers being amongst the artifacts gives a special atmosphere.

Kate and her Front of House staff are also very nice to us volunteers as well 😊

What can you see at the MAA?

We have four galleries over three floors at the MAA. The Li Ka Shing gallery is our temporary exhibition space (more on Beneath Our Feet later). Also on the ground floor is the Clark Gallery which is dedicated to local archaeology. On display we have Viking axe heads, Anglo-Saxon broaches and our famous 2nd century Roman ‘Penis Pot’ all excavated from around Cambridge.

Maudslay Gallery MAA
PHOTOGRAPH BY Keith Bonfield

Moving up the stairs (or via the lifts) we have the Maudslay gallery that contains our world anthropology displays. From canoes, to totem poles, spears and samurai swords there is something for everyone. The Maudslay contains my favourite object we have displayed. A late 20th century ‘pecalang’ which is a boundary or village guardian figure of the Hindu monkey god Hanuman and is just beautify carved What I find remarkable about this piece is that it’s made from concrete! The accession number is 2004.118 if you want to see a photo from our online catalogue via the MAA website.

Andrews Gallery MAA
PHOTOGRAPH BY Keith Bonfield

Up the stairs* again and you get to the Andrews Gallery and our archaeology displays from Egypt, Central and South America and East Africa. Oddly perhaps, we also have as doorway into the back of the building off this gallery a chancel screen by Indigo Jones that was originally part of Winchester Cathedral.

For children we have Lucky Dips objects to find, family trails, our top nine museum objects to locate in the galleries and also colouring up on the second floor (very popular with adults as well 😊).

*we do have some ‘back stair’s’ but the damp, dimly lit spiral stair case at the back of the building (it’s very Famous Five’) but it is not open to the public, the really good bits rarely are…..

MAA Stores Move

Most museums are only able to display a fraction of their collection and the MAA is no different, with only 660m2 of museum space and over 1,000,000 objects in the collection only a small proportion are able to be displayed. Much of the collection is stored onsite at the MAA but we also have many other storage sites across Cambridge which is not ideal for collections management.

Centre for Material Culture

In July 2019 the University of Cambridge provided £8.6m of funding for a new off-site collection’s facility for the MAA. The building that is now the Centre for Material Culture (CMC) was once Cambridge’s Nuclear Bunker, a Cold-War Regional Command Centre. Refitted with climate control, fire suppression, and vast amounts of shelving the MAA took possession of the new store in October 2020 and ‘the move’ began.

Our dozen strong stores move team have the mammoth task of moving, physically checking, updating the catalogue records and assessing the condition of 300,000 objects from 160 countries before they are photographed and safely repacked.

Re-purposing ‘old’ buildings really appeals to me, the idea of a building that is part of contemporary history being used to store artifacts up to 2 million years old I just love. The stores move project is ongoing (as of July 2023) so the CMC is not open to the public, however if we all send enough emails to the MAA expressing a desire to visit, well maybe in the future…….

Beneath Our Feet Exhibition

As part of our ground floor exhibition space, we have the Li Ka Shing gallery dedicated to temporary displays, the most fabulous Colour: Art, Science and Power finished at the end of April 2023 (see our website for a Virtual Exhibition).

On the 21st June our new exhibition ‘Beneath Our feet, Archaeology of the Cambridge Region’ (ACR) opened to great interest. The displays explore what local archaeological discoveries can tell us about the lives of those who walked this landscape centuries before us. The exhibition has a fascinating collection of artifacts from the Neolithic, through to the Bronze Age, early medieval and up to the 14th century. The artifact that piques the most interest is the Trumpington Cross, discovered in 2011 as part of an 7th century bed-burial this pectoral Christian Cross is of astonishing beauty and craftsmanship. Pictures of the Trumpington Cross either in print or online don’t give a good idea of just how delicate and small the cross is (only 35mm diameter). As a volunteer in the Li Ka Shing gallery a frequent question from visitors is ‘this cross, where is it?’.

For me the most interesting is the work of the early 20th century archaeologist Cyril Fox, he contributed hugely to the understanding of Cambridgeshire’s archaeology and landscape and all from his bicycle!. His original work from 1923 ‘The Archaeology of the Cambridge Region’ (available in the MAA gift shop) now sits on my every expanding pile of books waiting to be read.

Beneath Our Feet Archaeology of the Cambridge Region

Interesting Fact

We don’t have any dinosaurs which is very sad, but our very close neighbour ‘The Sedgewick Museum of Earth Sciences’ has plenty, so go and visit them as well!

Plan your visit

Where we are:

Downing Street, Cambridge CB2 3DZ

Visitor Information:

We are open Tuesday to Saturday 10am–5pm, and Sunday 12pm-5pm.

Entry to the museum is free.

Our first and second floor galleries, gender neutral toilets and accessible toilets are all available via our lifts.

Contact us:

For enquiries about visiting the museum please contact:

Downing Street, Cambridge CB2 3DZ

+44 (0)1223 333516

If you are visiting the museum with a group of 10 or more people, please book in advance by emailing Please note that group visit is booked only once you receive a confirmation email from the museum.


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Keith Bonfield

Keith is Suffolk born and bred and currently lives in Bury St Edmunds.

By profession he is a nurse working in the Intensive Care Unit at West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds.

A huge fan off 80’s music Keith is also a volunteer with Felixstowe Radio presenting an Ultimate Extra 80’s show.

Keith has been a Front of House volunteer at the MAA since March 2022.

He also volunteers at the Suffolk and Cambridgeshire Regiment Museum in Bury St Edmunds assisting the curator as requested.

Twitter @BonfieldKeith