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Family historians tracing the lives of their forebears who made a living on the sea may be able to uncover fresh leads in their research after the launch of a new building at one of the UK’s leading museums
Family historians tracing the lives of their forebears who made a living on the sea may be able to uncover fresh leads in their research after the launch of a new building at one of the UK’s leading museums.
The Sammy Ofer Wing at the National Maritime Museum (NMM) in Greenwich, which opens next Thursday, 14 July, will offer a range of improved facilities enabling visitors to browse much of the museum’s vast collection of artefacts and documents on-site for the first time. The centre has been funded thanks to a sizeable private donation and a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
The NMM’s archive represents one of the most important collections of maritime material in the world and features 100,000 books and a wide range of manuscripts. Among the records available to explore in the new wing are a set of crew lists and masters’ certificates, which contain a wealth of personal information about seamen who hoped to be promoted to the position of master or mate.
“The new centre will offer greatly improved access to our collections, most of which have never been available on-site before due to a lack of storage space,” says Eleanor Gawne, the museum’s head of archive and library. “For instance, our brand new reading room has been designed for different users, including a study area for families and groups, another for individuals working alone and ten terminals that provide access to our online catalogue and ordering system. We’ve also got a new permanent gallery, which uses highlights from our collections to tell the often moving stories of people from around the world, including a 19th-century whaler’s diary and a toy pig that survived the sinking of the Titanic.”
Although only the books and reference works on open shelving and electronic resources will be available at the time of the launch of the new wing, visitors are expected to be able to access the full collection when all of the records are transferred to the new building at the end of September. The opening of the centre marks the first stage in a series of developments over the next five years, with more details expected to be announced in the coming months.