About RISW

About us

The Royal Institution of South Wales is all about Swansea, its region and its people. A long-established society with a fascinating history, the RISW values the past while looking to the future.

What we do

  • Provide a varied programme of events and activities:
    • Talks, discussions and public lectures
    • Social events for members, visits to places of interest
    • Study days and field trips
    • Annual book fair, book launches
  • Support Swansea Museum:
    • Fundraise, act as ambassadors and Friends of the museum
    • Provide volunteer help
    • Pay for conservation work, contribute to special projects
    • Buy items for museum collections
  • Research and publish:
    • Swansea History Journal - Minerva
    • Other local interest publications
    • RISW members’ Newsletter
    • Research projects, e.g. a new history of the RISW
  • Link with other like-minded organisations.


Our history

Originally called the Swansea Philosophical & Literary Society, the RISW was founded in 1835 with the purpose of making Swansea a centre of culture and scientific research.


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Early members included businessmen and industrialists who were interested in science and the development of technologies, in history and the arts. In 1838 it was granted a Royal Charter in recognition of the high quality of scientific research by its members, and in 1848 the RISW was chosen to host the Annual Meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science – a high accolade.

The RISW built the present Swansea Museum building – the earliest museum in Wales – with exhibition galleries and also a library, a laboratory and a lecture theatre.

During the 19th and 20th centuries the RISW continued its educational, research and social activities as well as developing the museum and its many collections.

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In the 1960s and ‘70s the RISW collaborated with local industries to create an industrial museum for Swansea. The later 1970s and ‘80s saw the Institution in partnership with Swansea University and involved in the famous Lower Swansea Valley Reclamation Project.

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In 1991 by mutual agreement Swansea City Council accepted Swansea Museum into its Museums Service, and the Museum is now entirely owned and managed by the Local Authority. Freed of the financial cost and responsibility of running the Museum, the RISW is now revitalised and moving into the 21st century with enthusiasm and new ideas.