William D’Urban (1836-1934)
William D’Urban was RAMM’s first curator and influenced the museum’s early approach to collecting. He was brought up in South Africa and Canada. During these early years William suffered from diphtheria. A botched local cure left him with a severe hearing impairment for the rest of his life.
This disability meant that rather than the military career planned for him he studied and collected the natural history and archaeology of his surroundings. This made him an ideal choice for RAMM. When D’Urban arrived in Exeter his priority was to organise the collection and make it ready for opening in 1868. Afterwards he continued to work on the displays and catalogue the early accessions.
In 1884 William D’Urban left the museum and moved to California due to his son’s health. He could not shake off the collecting bug and continued to amass natural history specimens, ethnography and archaeological artefacts that were given to RAMM. Following the sad death of his son he returned to Exeter and lived for another 40 years.