A unique celebration of the sea
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.
The National Small Boat Collection
The National Maritime Museum Greenwich had an impressive collection of small boats – some 120 craft of historical significance from Britain and overseas. For many years the Trustees of the Museum had been seeking a suitable waterfront location in which to create an imaginative and dynamic showcase for the boats, many of which can still be sailed. Falmouth, offering a waterside location, its own nautical heritage and one of the world’s finest harbours represented an ideal site.
The Cornwall Maritime Museum
The Cornwall Maritime Museum evolved from a collection reflecting Cornwall’s rich maritime history gathered over 150 years by the Royal Cornwall Polytechnic Society. In 1981 this collection was brought together as the Falmouth Maritime Museum, later changing to the Cornwall Maritime Museum. Since then the collection has grown and prospered.
Both museums applied separately to the Heritage Lottery Fund for assistance in developing their ideas. At the Fund’s suggestion the two began talks that culminated in the formation of a joint venture to create a single entity. Although owing a great deal to both sponsoring museums, the new undertaking was to be independent, with its own governing body, financially self-supporting, and most importantly with displays to reflect its location and market.
A new Charitable Trust was created to oversee the project. In addition to the HLF, funding for the National Maritime Museum Cornwall has come from the South West Regional Development Agency, the European Regional Development Fund (5b funding programme), individuals and corporate sponsors.
The new landmark building was designed by architects Long & Kentish, following a countrywide competition run by Cornwall County Council in 1996. The exhibitions inside the museum have been master-planned, designed and developed by Land Design Studio.
Unusually, both architects and designers were appointed at a very early stage in the project and have worked closely together throughout the development, resulting in a building and exhibitions that are sympathetic to each other’s needs, the local environment and marketplace. In an age of near-instant obsolescence, the building is designed to stand for a century or more, without ever needing much more than a good scrub-down now and then.
That has been achieved, in part, through design influenced by the site’s past as a boat-building yard, employing long-used and well-proved materials – granite, slate and green oak boarding, clad by master shipwrights, which will weather over the years from glowing gold to soft silver. Even before it left the drawing board, the Royal Fine Art Commission was describing the scheme as “one of the best”, which would result in “a building of the highest quality”.
The museum was officially opened in 2003. The new building was custom-designed and was built on land that was once covered in the sheds of boat-builders.
- 2003 – Museum opens officially
- 2004 – Will to Win Olympic exhibition opens
- 2005 – Team Phillips, Ellen MacArthur, + Virgin welcomes Ollie Hicks
- 2006 – Endurance and Survival exhibition opens
- 2007 – Your Falmouth and Survival Zone opens
- 2008 – Under the Sea exhibition opens
- 2011 – On Thin Ice exhibition opens
- 2012 – Search and Rescue exhibition opens
- 2013 – We celebrate our 10th birthday
- 2015 – The Viking Voyagers exhibition opens
- 2016 – The Great Big Cornish Gig project launches
- 2017 – Tattoo British Tattoo Art Revealed and Captain Bligh: Myth, Man and Mutiny exhibitions open
- 2018 – Titanic Stories exhibition opens
- 2019 – RNLI Rescue Zones opens and the Heritage Boat Tours start.
- 2020 – Monsters of The Deep: Science Fact and Fiction exhibition opens
The quality and creativity of our learning programme and visitor experience has been recognised in a number of prestigious awards. Here are just some of them…
- 2017 – Best Gallery – What’s on Cornwall Awards
- 2015 – The Sandford Award – for the outstanding quality of our education work
- 2014 – Winner The Telegraph Family Friendly Museum Award
- 2014 – Learning outside the classroom quality badge
- 2014 – Marsh Trust Award
- 2014 – Silver – Best UK Heritage Attraction at British Travel Awards
- 2014 – Best Museum in Cornwall – Cornwall Today Awards
- 2013 – Silver – Best UK Heritage Attraction at British Travel Awards
- 2005 – ADAPT Trust Awards for Excellence in Access for Disabled People
- 2004 – Nominated for a Silver Award for the most outstanding environmental design