Caird Library and Archive

Visit the Caird Library and Archive at the National Maritime Museum and access the Museum's Library and Archive collection, the most extensive maritime reference resource in the world. Entry is free, you just need to register for a Reader’s Ticket.

Caird Library and Archive temporary opening times

  • 10.00-16.45, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays until 31 January 2016, this to enable staff to work on collections at offsite stores.

  • The Library will be closed 21– 28 December.

About the Caird Library and Archive

The Library collection includes over 100,000 books, 20,000 pamphlets, 20,000 bound periodicals including 200 current titles and 8000 rare books spanning every aspect of maritime history, including: emigration, navigation, piracy, astronomy, shipping companies, shipwrecks, biographies, the two World Wars, horology, Merchant and Royal Navy. It includes many original documents, manuscripts, atlases, maps, sea charts and periodicals. There are 6,000 books and printed resources available to study on open access shelves.

The collections are available to anyone interested in maritime history and can be accessed for free online or in person, you just need to register for a Reader's Ticket.

There is a team of professional librarians and archivists who are available to help and advise readers at all times. If you are not able to visit the Caird Library and Archive, staff are happy to answer enquiries by telephone, email and letter about items in our collection and can offer up to 15 minutes of free research time. The Library also offers a document copying service to supply scans of items in our collection. Charges apply, please ask staff for details.    

Find out how to register

Using our collections for research

The collections can be used to find out about a range of popular topics, including:

  • maritime history and exploration, including World Wars
  • the Merchant Navy and the Royal Navy
  • astronomy and timekeeping
  • family history (the collection includes Master's Certificates dating back to 1850 and Merchant Navy Crew Lists dating back to the 1860s)

Search the Archive catalogue

Search the Library catalogue

Popular collections

Additional to the Royal Navy holdings are a number of significant collections relating to differing aspects of maritime history. The Lord-MacQuitty collection is a popular resource for those studying the Titanic tragedy containing original ephemeral items such as a number of survivors‘ testimonies and the gold pocket watch belonging to a passenger Robert Douglas Norman of Edinburgh, who died in the Titanic. The watch, which stopped at 3.05, was recovered with his body.

The Michael Graham Stewart Slavery and Abolition collection was purchased in 2002, with the assistance of the Heritage Lottery Fund, and its manuscript and printed material, together with the National Maritime Museum’s pre-existing slavery and abolition material, has established Greenwich as a centre for the study of the subject.

Find out more about the National Maritime Museum Library and Archive collection

Tracing your family history

If you are interested in tracing your ancestory or researching people who served or travelled on ships, this can be a complex task. Our collection of crew lists and masters’, mates’ and engineers’ certificates are key family history resources for searching the merchant navy, using these you will be able to search for:
  • members of the Merchant Navy
  • vessels and voyages

More about family history research

Contact us about the Library and Archive collection

If you have a question about accessing the Library and Archive collection or the facilities and services we offer, contact us.


Tel: +44 (0)20 8312 6516