The museum has collected material relating to the Roman city of Luguvalium Carvettiorum (Carlisle) since it opened in 1893. One of the core elements of the collection is the material that was found when the foundations were dug for the Victorian extension to the museum. This tradition continued when more roman material was found when the 1990s extension was made and the underground gallery was built in the 2000s. The museum is also the holder of the archives for excavations undertaken between 1979 and 2001 by the Carlisle Archaeological Field Unit.

Before 1979 the Roman city of Carlisle was represented by a series of finds; not much was known about the structures that went with them. Since then large excavations, especially in The Lanes area of Carlisle, have thrown much light on the physical development of the Roman city. This started with large wooden buildings, probably military in origin. When the area passed into civilian ownership, it was redeveloped and in the later Roman period was the site of a large stone-built house. Other excavations have revealed the location of a large late-Roman bath house underneath the Victorian market hall in central modern day Carlisle.

Some of the city’s Roman cemeteries have been excavated over the years. The most important one lined the road from the south, along what is now London Road and Botchergate. Others were along the roads to the east and west. Tombstones and other finds are housed in the museum.