The Regional Archaeological Museum - Plovdiv is one of the first cultural institutions in Bulgaria, established in the end of the XIX th c., immediately after the liberation of Bulgaria from the Turkish domination (1878). The idea about creating a Museum came from the well known Bulgarian Revival activist, scholar and statesman Yoakim Gruev, who was then the Director for the People’s education in Eastern Rumeliya (May 20, 1879 - November 23, 1884). It is believed, therefore, that the creation of the Museum dates back to 1879, because the collection of the first exhibits started in this year in the library of the Education Directorate of Eastern Rumeliya.

Prior to Yoakim Gruev, the official initiator for the „creation and organization of a Museum, [but] and of a National Library in Philippopol” was Emanuil Nikolov Bogoridi, the nephew of the general governor Al. Bogoridi, whose initiative was documented on June 12, 1879.  Earlier in a document dated from March 12, 1879 N. M. Shishedzhiev spoke of „a first step towards the foundaion of a Bulgarian Museum”.

A letter № 42 from January 30, 1880, signed by Yoakim Gruev, obliged the prefects to take care of „searching and collecting old objects for the Museum with the Directorate of the People’s Education”. This is for the time being, the oldest official document suggesting that from the beginning of 1880, a „Museum for Relics” had already existed in Plovdiv. In this letter „the guidelines for the organization and for the development of the museums, of their tasks and their objectives have been set. The main types of the activities were defined – discovery, collection, surveying, scientific, publicity, cultural.  Only guidelines for the display of exhibits were missing because there were no available premises for this activity.” On April 10, 1881 two other documents were issued giving instructions how to carry out excavation works and it was mentioned there that the basis of the „Regional Museum in Plovdiv” was set up.

On May 1, 1882 a „public administrative statute for the structure and management of the regional library and of the regional museum” was issued and published by the General Governor Alexander Bogoridi on behalf of the East Rumelian government. The library and the museum were set under the guidance of the Director for the national education Yoakim Gruev. The statute acknowledged the museum and the library  in judicial sense. Three departments were set up within the museum – archaeological, numismatic and one for collecting manuscripts. The latter moved in 1883 as a founding unit into today’s Plovdiv National Library „Ivan Vazov”. The official inauguration of the new office took place on September 15, 1882 and from that date until March 1, 1945 the museum and the library existed together under joint management. It is interesting to note that on April 20, 1882 for the first time after the title „Regional museum” the title „Library” was also used. Starting from June 15, 1882 information and announcements were issued on behalf of the „Management of the Regional Library and Museum of Eastern Rumelia”. The first curator of the Plovdiv library and museum was the renown Russian writer and activist Alexander Alexandrovich Bashamakov (1882 - 1883).

In 1901 the museum department was closed down due to some difficulties and fraud. On May 1, 1901 Boris Dyakovich was appointed as the head of the library and museum until 1931. The Director, Boris Dyakovich, an archaeologist, implemented in 1910 his plan of founding a new museum with the intention to preserve „ancient objects” from a rich region like Thrace. The museum department, initially existing as „an archaeological and numismatic office” at the National Library was opened on October 1, 1910. This event marked the beginning of the second period in the development of the museum. After the second inauguration of the museum six departments were established – archaeological, historical, ethnographic, religious, numismatic and diverse ancient artefacts. Apart from the first official departments as early as 1907 a „pre-historic” department, a department of „ancient art” and a few others were set up.

According to the amendment and the corrigendum to the National Education Act from 1920, the archaeological and the numismatic departments at the National Library were renamed to become the Archaeological museum. The aim of the Museum, according to § 166 of the statute of the Plovdiv National Library drafted by the Director B. Dyakovich and approved by the Minister of the national education with order № 1934 from June 12, 1920 was to collect and preserve the historical monuments of the Bulgarian nation and of other Balkan nations. According to § 167 of the same statute the museum consists of three main departments: archaeological, numismatic and artistic. The museum was legalized by way of order № 145 from June 6, 1921 of His Excellence Tzar Boris III. A collection with prints and engravings was created within the artistic department at the end of 1924, while in 1925 a photographic collection with portraits of notable activists and artists was created.

On December 1, 1930 the office at the National Library was reopened and renamed as „People’s archaeological museum”, and despite the appeals of the museum workers it was not transformed into an independent institution until March 10, 1945.

With Ordinance № 80 from 07. 04. 2006 of the Council of Ministers, the Archaeological Museum - Plovdiv was given the statute of a regional museum with a territorial scope – the territory of the Plovdiv region.