The National Maritime Museum in Greenwich

Monday, 23 May 2016 - 11:00 am (CET/MEZ) Berlin | Author/Destination:
Category/Kategorie: General, London, Museums, Exhibitions, Palaces, Castles, Manors, Parks, UNESCO World Heritage

National Maritime Museum © ChrisO/cc-by-sa-3.0

National Maritime Museum © ChrisO/cc-by-sa-3.0

The National Maritime Museum (NMM) in Greenwich in London, is the leading maritime museum of the United Kingdom and may be the largest museum of its kind in the world. The historic buildings form part of the Maritime Greenwich World Heritage Site, and it also incorporates the Royal Observatory, and 17th-century Queen’s House. In 2012, Her Majesty The Queen formally approved Royal Museums Greenwich as the new overall title for the National Maritime Museum, Queen’s House, the Royal Observatory, Greenwich and the Cutty Sark. The museum is a non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. Like other publicly funded national museums in the United Kingdom, the National Maritime Museum does not levy an admission charge although most temporary exhibitions do incur admission charges.

Since earliest times Greenwich has had associations with the sea and navigation. It was a landing place for the Romans; Henry VIII lived here; the navy has roots on the waterfront; and Charles II founded the Royal Observatory in 1675 for “finding the longitude of places”. The home of Greenwich Mean Time and the Prime Meridian since 1884, Greenwich has long been a centre for astronomical study, while navigators across the world have set their clocks according to its time of day. The Museum has the most important holdings in the world on the history of Britain at sea comprising more than two million items, including maritime art (both British and 17th-century Dutch), cartography, manuscripts including official public records, ship models and plans, scientific and navigational instruments, instruments for time-keeping and astronomy (based at the Observatory). Its British portraits collection is exceeded in size only by that of the National Portrait Gallery and its holdings relating to Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson and Captain James Cook, among many other individuals, are unrivalled. An active loans programme ensures that items from the collection are seen in the UK and abroad. Through its displays, exhibitions and outreach programmes the Museum also explores our current relationship with the sea and the future of the sea as an environmental force and resource. By virtue of its pairing with the Royal Observatory, the Museum enjoys a unique conjunction of subjects (history, science and the arts), enabling it to trace the movement and accomplishments of people and the origins and consequences of empire. The outcome of the Museum’s work is to achieve, for all its users at home and overseas, a greater understanding of British economic, cultural, social, political and maritime history and its consequences in the world today.

The Museum has the world’s largest maritime historical reference library, including over 100,000 books, 20,000 pamphlets, 20,000 bound periodicals including 200 current titles and 8000 rare books dating from 1474 to 1850. The Caird Library is a comprehensive specialist reference library and a rich research resource for all. The Archive and Library holds a fantastic range of resources for finding out more about maritime history. Material includes manuscripts, books, charts and maps dating back to the 15th century and comprising the most extensive maritime archive in the world. The collection can be used to research maritime history and exploration, the history of the Merchant Navy and the Royal Navy and much more, including astronomy and timekeeping. Many of the resources they hold are useful for family historians, including large collections of Master’s Certificates dating back to 1845 and Merchant Navy Crew Lists back to the 1860s.

Nelson's Ship in a Bottle © HFrankDM/cc-by-sa-3.0 © Katie Chan/cc-by-sa-3.0 © Optimist4343/cc-by-sa-3.0 National Maritime Museum Cornwall in Fallmouth © Vernon39 National Maritime Museum © ChrisO/cc-by-sa-3.0 © flickr.com - Cristian Bortes/cc-by-2.0 View from Greenwich Park with the Queens House and the wings of the National Maritime Museum in the foreground © Bill Bertram
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View from Greenwich Park with the Queens House and the wings of the National Maritime Museum in the foreground © Bill Bertram
The museum was officially established in 1934 within the 200 acres (0.81 km2) of Greenwich Royal Park in the buildings formerly occupied by the Royal Hospital School, before it moved to Holbrook in Suffolk. These buildings had previously been occupied by the Royal Naval Asylum before it was incorporated into the Greenwich Royal Hospital School. It includes the Queen’s House (part of the historic park-and-palace landscape of “Maritime Greenwich”, which was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997) and the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, until 1948 the home of the Royal Greenwich Observatory. The gardens immediately to the north of the museum were reinstated in the late 1870s following construction of the cut-and-cover tunnel between Greenwich and Maze Hill stations. The tunnel comprised part of the final section of the London and Greenwich Railway and opened in 1878. All the Museum buildings have been subsequently upgraded. A full redevelopment of the main galleries, centring on what is now the Neptune Court, and funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, was completed in 1999. The Queen’s House was refurbished in 2001 to become the heart of displays of art from the Museum’s collection. In May 2007 a major capital project, “Time and Space”, opened up the entire Royal Observatory site for the benefit of visitors. The £16 million transformation features three new modern astronomy galleries, four new time galleries, facilities for collections conservation and research, a learning centre and the 120-seat Peter Harrison Planetarium (named after the major donor, Peter Harrison) designed to introduce the world beyond the night sky.

The National Maritime Museum Cornwall is a fully independent museum, a development of the original FIMI (Falmouth International Maritime Initiative) partnership created in 1992 and the result of collaboration between the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich and the former Cornwall Maritime Museum in Falmouth.

Read more on Royal Museums Greenwich, VisitLondon.com – National Maritime Museum, VisitLondon.com – Royal Museums Greenwich, National Maritime Museum Cornwall, Greenwich Heritage Centre, VisitGreenwich.org.uk – World Heritage Site, Maritime Greenwich World Heritage Site and Wikipedia National Maritime Museum (Smart Traveler App by U.S. Department of State). Photos by Wikimedia Commons. If you have a suggestion, critique, review or comment to this blog entry, we are looking forward to receive your e-mail at comment@wingsch.net. Please name the headline of the blog post to which your e-mail refers to in the subject line.




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