The Museum’s collections can never all be on display, and many are too delicate for permanent exhibition. Researchers who wish to see items in the Reserve Collections can contact us to make an appointment with a curator to come and consult them. Most of the Museum's collections are now available to search online.
To make an appointment to view items from the Reserve Collections, please see our Access page
This includes recorded interviews with men and women of the Royal Navy, focusing on their personal experience, both in war and peace, of naval life during the 20th and 21st centuries. Subjects covered include: recruitment and training; equipment; war-time role; changes in the Navy's structure and requirements; ships; naval bases; naval operations; prisoners of war; uniform; accommodation; victualling; discipline; pay; working conditions; health and welfare; family life; and recreational activity. The Collection includes life history interviews; project collections on such topics as the D-Day WRNS, the Gulf War 1991, Portsmouth Dockyard etc.; themed collections on medicine and welfare, training, etc. A description of the collection is provided by Val Billing, Catalogue of the Oral History Collection at the Royal Naval Museum, 1997. Copies are available from the Museum shop.
To listen to new oral history recordings, visit the Sea Your History website.
This covers the period from the beginnings of photography in the 1850s to the present day. It consists mainly of prints and albums and covers a broad range of naval topics including; naval biography, ship portraits, non-naval vessels, shore bases, naval operations and social history. Part of the archive includes the well-known and long-established Wright & Logan Collection of Warship photographs acquired with the help of a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. This consists of around 22,000 negatives, mostly on glass plates, of warships from 1924-1998. Many of the more popular images are now available for sale as prints from Museum shop.
The art collection includes approximately 2,600 works including: oil paintings, watercolours, prints and drawings, glass paintings, embroideries and miniatures. It is particularly strong in works of all kinds relating to Horatio Nelson, prints of actions from the Napoleonic Wars and naval caricatures. It includes notable works by John Wilson Carmichael, Thomas Luny and William Lionel Wyllie.
The Museum's oil painting collection is listed in the Public Catalogue Foundation's Oil paintings in public ownership: Hampshire (p.188-227) published in 2007
This collection was transferred to the Museum from the Director of WRNS Office in 1987. Since this time the collection has been supplemented with private donations and transfers of material, and now includes approximately 5,000 items. It encompasses photographs, manuscript items, artefacts, uniform, paintings and drawings relating to the Women’s Royal Naval Service during the First and Second World wars, as well as the Permanent Service from 1947-1993 when the WRNS became integrated fully into the Navy.
Items from the WRNS collection are now available to view on the Sea Your History website.
This is the most varied of the Museum’s collections. It includes everything from weapons, uniforms, personal memorabilia, ship models, ceramics, to four floating craft. Of particular interest are: