The Picture Library assists professional image researchers in finding and licensing images from the Museum’s collections for use. It contains over 45,000 images from the collections held at the Royal Observatory, Cutty Sark, National Maritime Museum and the Queen’s House. Images can be licensed for a range of media, including programme making, film production, book publishing, magazine and news production and digital products, such as online content, apps and ebooks.
Maritime history, trade and exploration
Many images in our collections offer a window into life at sea, including ships and dockyards, vessel figureheads and decorations, naval uniforms, diving, ship plans and models, coins, medals and flags. Items document the history of the Royal Navy and Merchant Navy, over 500 years of Trinity House and safety at sea, the development of sea charts and maps from the medieval era to the present day, the golden age of cruise travel, relics of the Atlantic slave trade, pirates, buccaneers and treasure, plus three centuries of trade and empire tracing the story of globalisation and exchange.
Astronomy, navigation and time
The Picture Library includes images of historical scientific instruments that document around 800 years of astronomy, navigation and timekeeping. Highlights include Map of the moon (third edition, 1952) by H Percy Wilkins, John Harrison’s famous navigational timepieces of the 1700s, a range of historical astrolabes and constellation cards, plus portraits of well-known Astronomers Royal and clock makers including Galileo, Edmond Halley, Derek Howse, Thomas Earnshaw and George Graham.
Our images depict artefacts and memorabilia from famous sea battles, paintings of war throughout the ages, a rich collection of historic photographs from the First and Second World Wars, plus contemporary works by Eric Ravilious, Barnett Freedman, John Everett, Herbert Barnard, Richard Eurich, Norman Wilkinson, Stephen Bone, William Dring, John Worsley, Charles Wheeler and John Kingsley Cook.
The Picture Library offers access to portraits and photographs of famous people including Captain James Cook, Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson and his mistress Lady Emma Hamilton, Napoleon Bonaparte, 16th and 17th century historical portraits including those of Kings and Queens of England, seamen of the Franklin expedition, plus Isambard Kingdom Brunel.
The fine art collection includes historical oil paintings, engravings, drawings and watercolours. Royal portraits from the 16th and 17th century include Queen Elizabeth I, King Henry VIII, Charles II, Mary I and Philip II Spain. Notable maritime portraits include Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson, Napoleon Bonaparte, Sir Francis Drake and Captain James Cook. Many works in our collection depict battles at sea, ports around the world, exploration, plus well known astronomers and inventors associated with navigation and timekeeping.
Notable artists include J.M.W. Turner, Edward Lear, the van de Veldes (Elder and Younger), Joshua Reynolds, Nicholas Pocock, George Stubbs, Peter Lely and William Hodges.
Highlights include photographs and paintings of Cutty Sark (1869), the world's last surviving tea clipper and one of Britain's greatest maritime treasures, the ill-fated passenger liner RMS Titanic (1912), plus photographs of tall ships by Richard Sibley and Alan Villiers. We also offer ship plans of Royal Navy light cruiser HMS Belfast (1938).
Using the Picture Library
You can browse the Picture Library and register free of charge.Registered users can save picture searches, apply for licenses online and receive updates about new items available.
The Picture Library licensing service is completely digital. Images are supplied in standard high-resolution file at 300ppi RGB jpeg, at least 3600 pixels longest side.If you require a larger file or a detail we can resupply items to your specification. This service can take slightly longer to supply and may incur further fees.
We license images for many different uses including programme making, film production, book publishing, magazine and news production and digital products, such as online content, apps and ebooks. Please contact us for more details. We also provide licenses for academic use. Please enquire about our academic discounts.
If you have any questions or queries about the Picture Library or image licensing service, contact the team.
Tel: +44 (0)20 8312 6704 / 6558