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The National Maritime Museum - the largest of its kind in the world - sets out to illuminate the entire history of Britain's encounter with the sea.
The museum opened in 1937 in elegant early 19th-century buildings developed around the Queen's House, which was built for Charles I's queen Henrietta Maria. Also part of the 'Maritime Greenwich' complex administered by the museum is the Royal Observatory on top of a hill in Greenwich Park. The world's Prime Meridian, it houses London's only planetarium.
On 14 July 2011 the museum unveiled its spectacular new Sammy Ofer Wing. Opening out onto Greenwich Park, it provides a new exhibition space, galleries, a library and places to eat and shop.
The Voyagers gallery introduces the museum's vast and varied collections, which consist of over 2.5 million objects. The audio visual presentation and vitrines containing objects arranged according to human emotions associated with the sea - anticipation, love, sadness, pride, aggression and joy - encourage visitors to relate to the displays on a personal level.
These displays encompass maritime art and portraits, maps, models of ships, scientific and navigational instruments, uniforms, weapons, clocks, figureheads, and personal objects.
Whole galleries are devoted to exploration, the Atlantic slave trade and navigators. Among the highlights are Captain Cook's handwritten journals and paintings of HMS Resolution and Discovery, as well as the uniform Horatio Nelson wore at Trafalgar and his correspondence with Emma Hamilton.
Every visitor to the museum is given a 'compass card', which they can insert into units in the galleries to gather objects that will form their own virtual collection.
Art Funded works
Henry Nelson O'Neil's The Parting Cheer is a crowded scene depicting a ship crammed with emigrants leaving from a London quayside, focusing on the reactions of the grieving friends and families left behind on the shore.
The Art Fund has helped with the acquisition of various images and objects associated with Nelson – a purse, a tea caddy, a toothpick case. Two of the most splendid are a portrait of the Vice-Admiral by Lemuel Francis Abbott, based on a sketch done while Nelson was at Greenwich, and Yinka Shonibare's Fourth Plinth sculpture Nelson's Ship in a Bottle, which has a permanent home outside the museum's Sammy Ofer Wing thanks to our fundraising campaign.
In the new wing there is the smart Brasserie, overseen by an award-winning head chef, and a café serving British food from morning till early evening. In the shop, along with the books and designer watches, you will find plenty to keep the children amused, including telescopes, globes, stuffed polar bears and pirate outfits.
Art we've helped buy at National Maritime Museum
Free entry to all
50% off exhibitions with National Art Pass
Daily, 10am – 5pm (last admission 4.30pm). Sammy Ofer Wing open until 8pm on Thur.
Closed 24 – 26 December, close at 3pm on 31 December and open at 12noon on 1 Jan and on the occasion of the London Marathon.