The National Museum of the Royal Navy holds the most comprehensive collection of Royal Navy heritage in the UK and the largest collection of historic ships in Europe. It cares for a collection of over 2.5 million items which tell the epic story of the Royal Navy from its origins in 625 AD to today. These collections hold a breadth of material much which is unique to the Navy – figureheads, flags, aircraft, art, documentary archives, photographs, archaeological material and technology.
Explore the Online Collection
Discover the collections online through the Collections Portal. Explore the incredible range of material we hold including personal archives, photographs, medals, figureheads, uniform, and much more which represent all the key branches of the Royal Navy.
Collections Access Service
Interested in an item from the collection? You can book to see the collections or order a digital image by contacting our Collections Access Service.
Wondering how to research a naval ancestor or interested in a particular biography? Use our guide sheet to get started.
Want to identify any ship's hardware you might have? Use our guide sheet to get started.
Interested in researching naval uniforms? Use our guide sheet to get started.
Need to know more about weaponry? Use our guide sheet to get started.
Have an unknown painting? Use our guide sheet to get started.
Trying to identify a particular person or ship? Use our guide sheet to get started.
Gift an item to the collection
We’re always grateful for items being given to the museum. Please complete our Object Donation Form and submit to firstname.lastname@example.org or post to The Collections Team, The National Museum of the Royal Navy, HM Naval Base (PP66), Portsmouth, PO1 3NH. See our guides section for more information on the type of material we collect and the acquisition process.
Until you have received confirmation from us, please withhold from sending any items to us.
Collections Portal - Guides
The Collections Portal allows users to search the vast majority of the collections held by the National Museum of the Royal Navy.
If you want to browse some of the collection highlights you can use the tiles on the home screen to see some of the popular collections and current exhibitions. Clicking on one of the tiles will take you to the Results screen where you can see more details about each object.
There are various ways to search the collections. Use the Simple Search box to enter a general term or the name of an object, place or person you are interested in finding out more about and click on Search. Advanced and Expert searches allow you to refine your searches and sort the order of the results. More detailed help around searching and selecting records can be found once you are in the portal by clicking on the Help symbol on the top right of the screen.
You can print, download and email selected records using the Action buttons. More information about Using Images and Requesting Items from the Collection can be found on this page and in the Collection Guide on the portal.
We are always working to add to and improve our collections information as well as cataloguing recent acquisitions so do check back to see what is new.
The Collections Access Service is here to help you get closer to the collections. If you would like to view an item in person or get a digital copy, where it isn’t available on the Collections Portal, please e-mail the service on email@example.com. Please include the object number, from the Collections Portal in your email.
If you would like to view the items in person, our research rooms are open as follows (not including Bank Holidays):
- Storehouse 12, Portsmouth Historic Dockyard – Fridays 10-4, closed for lunch 12-1
- Cobham Hall, Fleet Air Arm Museum – Second & Fourth Thursday of the month 10:30-1 & 1-3
Booking must be made and confirmed at least one week in advance. Please include your preferred dates, though specific slots cannot be guaranteed.
We are privileged to hold a wealth of material in the collections. We will aim to make as much of the collections available to view as possible. However, at times some collections may be inaccessible for various reasons. You will be made aware of this at the time of request. At times we may ask you to prioritise the most relevant items if the request is extensive.
Please also note photographs are not available to physically browse through due to varying formats and controlled storage conditions. They can, however, be made available through our digitisation on demand service.
Digitisation on Demand Service
If you can’t come in person, not to worry, we also offer a Digitisation on Demand service for a fee. Charges are outlined below:
|Flat Archive/Photograph Item (per page)
|Under A3 - £20
Over A3 - £50
|Bound Archive/Photo Album
|Under A3 - £100
Over A3 - £300
|Film & Sound
Virtual Reading Room Appointments
If you aren’t sure whether you want a either of the above we now offer introductory virtual reading room appointments. These are chargeable at £20 for an appointment over Zoom up to 40 minutes. During these our Collections Team will facilitate a preview of your requests items, recommended max of 10 items, which should allow you to better understand if you then want to view the items in person or request for them to be digitised. Enquirer through our Collections Access Service for more details.
Users are welcome to download and use any non-watermarked images in records on our Collections Portal for non-commercial and non-for-profit, under the Creative Commons model as follows:
a. Users may share (copy and redistribute material in any medium or format) and adapt (remix, transform, and build upon the material). Appropriate credit must be given as ©National Museum of the Royal Navy.
b. Users must provide a link to the license, and indicate where changes were made.
c. Users may share and adapt an image in a reasonable manner, but not in any way that suggests the National Museum endorses the use or user.
d. Users may not use the material for commercial purposes. The National Museum considers use of the material for an academic or not-for-profit purpose to be considered non-commercial use. Commercial ventures are seen as any activities where the sole purpose is the generation of income for the individual, company or organisation.
e. If users remix, transform or build on the material, they must distribute their contributions under the same license as the original. No additional restrictions can be applied that legally or technically restrict users from doing anything the license permits. See https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/ for more details.
Any image which is watermarked or found elsewhere on the National Museum’s portal and websites may be subject to copyright and other third party rights, and is not currently available to use. If you would like to use one of these images please contact our team on firstname.lastname@example.org, or through the request form in the portal.
Additionally, if you would like to use any images outside of the above Creative Commons licence, for example, for commercial purposes, you must apply for an appropriate license. Charges will be applied, so please contact email@example.com for more information.
Offers are assessed on the following criteria:
- Relevance to the Royal Navy (Items not relevant to the RN story will not be considered)
- Condition (items in poor condition are less likely to be accepted)
- Provenance (the more information we know about the item the more likely we will accept it)
- Historical value (We usually only accept original items and avoid accepting copies or photocopies of originals)
- Potential use (Display, loan, archival research, online collections and material)
- Strengthening specific areas of the collection (filling gaps in the collection)
- Avoiding duplication (we are unable to accept items that we already hold examples of)
Decision process: We get offered hundreds of items each year and are unable to accept all offers. We assess each offer carefully at our monthly Acquisition Panel, and make decisions based on our Collecting Criteria. Once the panel has met a curator will contact you to let you know the outcome of your offer. We try to reply within 4 weeks from the panel decision.
- Offers of donation can’t be considered without images or the information asked for in the Object Donation Form.
- Please do not send in items before we ask for them.
- We are not able to promise that accepted donations will go on display.
We only accept Service Papers and Certificates if they come in with other items relating to the named person.
We are always happy to discuss loans from our collection.
We typically lend to other museums and institutions who can provide public access and are able to satisfy the required UKRG security and display conditions.
We are unable to lend items to individuals, families, institutions or groups without adequate public access, security or display conditions.
Loan requests take a minimum of 6 months to process, so please give us as much notice as possible when requesting items.
Making a Loan Request:
Step 1: Before making a request, borrowers must be aware that we will need:
- 6 months advance notice for all UK loans
- 12 months advance notice for all EU + International loans
- Assurance of ability to provide public access to loans
- Assurance of ability to provide suitable security and display conditions for loans
Step 2: Research and select items
- Contact Collections & Research Service firstname.lastname@example.org
- Discuss and select items you wish to borrow
Step 3: Written request
- Make a formal request by email to email@example.com or letter to
- The Head of Collections & Research, The National Museum of the Royal Navy, HM Naval Base (PP66), Portsmouth, PO1 3NH
The formal request should include:
- List of items requested with accession numbers
- Reason for loan (exhibition / research / other)
- Exhibition location and description and contribution these items will make
- Exhibition dates or length of loan (please note we do not agree to permanent loans)
- Insurance details
- Transport details
- Publication details
Step 4: Approval process
- NMRN will request a UK Registrars’ Group Standard Facilities Report
- The request will be assessed by the monthly Loan Panel
- Final approval made by Head of Collections & Research