Share this menu
A photo of the small boats displayed hanging from the ceiling of the Museum's Main Hall. Underneath, a large crowd of people are gathered.

A place of conservation

We have two main collections at the museum, The National Small Boat Collection, including objects and archives which relate to small boats, and the collection of objects representing the maritime history of Cornwall.

We are accredited, but not funded.

The National Small Boat Collection

The National Small Boat Collection was originally developed by the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich. This is now housed in Cornwall where it has been extended by the addition of other craft.  This collection is representative of boats from the UK and around the world. A maximum of length overall of 30ft (14.2m) is set for the collection although there are exceptions. A collection of objects and archives support the National Small Boat Collection.

Even those who don’t don’t know a luff from a lugger are seduced by the romance of boats, and this is a collection of international importance, preserving craft used for survival, work, competition, leisure, pleasure, exploration and war… from the Inuit kayak, a deadly hunter’s tool of skin and driftwood with an unbroken pedigree stretching back 10,000 years to the Mirror dinghy, as much a part of the ’60s social revolution as the Mini car.  The musuem doesn’t just tell the story of inanimate objects – it relates the tales of the lives and the times of those who made and used them.

The Cornish Maritime Collection

Much of the Cornish Maritime Collection came from the former Cornwall Maritime Museum in Falmouth. It contains objects, pictures, models and archives relating to the history of Cornwall and the sea, and Falmouth in particular. An important element of this collection is the material relating to the Falmouth Packet Ships which includes six watercolours by Maltese artist Cammillieri.

Reserve Collections

The museum has a large collection of objects, boats and archives. The majority of the collection is held in store. If you would like to make an appointment to view objects which are not on display, please email outlining the type(s) of objects you would like to view

Conservation and restoration

Our conservation and restoration team is always working away to ensure that our collection is in tip-top condition. Their aim is preserve our boats, pictures and objects for the enjoyment and education of this, and future generations. As its name suggests, our boat team concentrates on our fleet of boats, the majority of which are now ‘dry’ – no longer on the water – having been given a graceful retirement in the care of our experts. These boats form the core of the displays you will see in the museum. Others are ‘wet’, and are kept on the water or are restored so that they can to return to the water. This is always more expensive but allows them to be shown as they were intended by their designers and builders. When not on display our collection of objects and pictures are kept in a purpose-built store, with constant monitoring for optimum environmental conditions, infestation or physical damage.

Book now

National Maritime Museum
Cornwall Trust
Discovery Quay
TR11 3QY

Tel: +44(0)1326 313388