National Maritime Museum

London, SE10 9NF

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The National Maritime Museum – the largest of its kind in the world – sets out to illuminate the history of Britain's encounters 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. The Sammy Ofer Wing, unveiled in 2011, opens out onto Greenwich Park, providing a new exhibition space, galleries, a library and places to eat and shop.

In September 2018 the museum opened four new permanent galleries – Tudor and Stuart Seafarers, Pacific Encounters, Polar Worlds and Sea Things – covering British and European exploration from the late-15th century through to the present day and giving visitors unprecedented access to its collections.

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 .

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.

Four new galleries opened in 2018 – Tudor and Stuart Seafarers, Pacific Encounters, Polar Worlds and Sea Things. They highlight how Britain’s relationship with the sea and its growing maritime power and ambitions shaped the country and impacted the world we live in today.

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 we’ve helped buy at National Maritime Museum

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.

Venue information

Opening times

Daily, 10am – 5pm. Closes 6pm during summer holidays. Closed 24 – 26 Dec

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