Permanent gallery

Essential Information

National Maritime Museum
Price Free

For centuries, human identity has been shaped by our relationship with the sea; through work, play, love, loss, hope and despair, the ocean has made us who we are as individuals and societies.

The Sea Things gallery at the National Maritime Museum explores our connection to the sea through surprising objects and interactive exhibits.

Inside the gallery

Explore over 600 fascinating maritime objects, from a carved whale’s tooth to a Roman stone anchor, a pocket watch worn by a victim of the Titanic disaster to an Ancient Egyptian votive ship model – one of the oldest artefacts in the Museum’s collection.

Many of the objects are on open display, meaning you can get up close and touch them. Create your own route around the gallery, finding objects that capture your imagination.

An image showing multiple wooden ship models depicting a range of different types of boats and vessels hanging or on the display bottom which is surrounded by glass

Amongst the treasure trove of objects in the gallery you can see 55 ship models showing a variety of vessels used around the world, a display of over 150 ship badges, sailing and diving equipment, furniture, trinkets, busts, weapons, astronomical instruments and much more. 

Must-see objects

Tap the arrows to discover more about items on display in the Sea Things gallery.

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Pocket watch belonging to a victim of the Titanic sinking

This sea-water-soaked watch belonged to 27-year-old Titanic passenger Robert Douglas Norman, who died when the famous ship sank during its maiden voyage on 15 April 1912.

The gold-cased watch was found amongst his clothing when his body was recovered from the sea, the hands frozen on the time when he entered the sub-zero water, roughly 3.07am.

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Mailboat from St Kilda Island

Ever felt that the modern postal system can be unreliable? Spare a thought for residents of the remote Scottish island of St Kilda, who relied on this item to send messages to the Scottish mainland pre-1930.

The flotation device is made from a sheep’s bladder which is attached to a hollow block of wood, inside which residents could stash their letters.

Surprisingly, mail usually reached the mainland within a day or two - but occasionally the letters would end up as far away as Iceland and Denmark! 

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Egyptian funerary boat

The Ancient Egyptians buried their dead with everything they would need to make the successful journey from this world to the afterlife.

Amongst the items they placed in the tombs, which included food, money and weapons, you might find a funerary boat like this one.

The belief was that with one of these symbolic vessels by their side, the dead could journey safely into the next world.

This model has been speculatively dated to 1850 BC, and is one of the oldest items in the National Maritime Museum's collections.

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Natasha Lambert BEM's 'sip-and-puff' helmet

Natasha was born with quadriplegic cerebral palsy, a condition which affects her speech and limbs, but she always dreamed of skippering a boat. To help her achieve this dream, Natasha’s father Gary developed a specially adapted ‘sip-and-puff’ helmet that connects to a boat's controls, which would enable Natasha to move a boat with her breath. Using this helmet, Natasha skippered a boat 2,808 miles all the way across the Atlantic in 2020.

Roman anchor

While this rock with a hole in it may not look like much at first glance, it's actually a Roman anchor dating back to 100 CE.

It was originally attached to a Roman trading ship visiting Lulworth Cove in Dorset, which sank in the harbour. The anchor lay there for almost two millennia before it was eventually raised by archaeologists in 1960.

While anchors similar to this one were recovered from other Roman-era shipwrecks, this type of anchor is even older, having been found on wrecks dating back to prehistoric times.

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Russian sea mine

This is a type of early sea mine, called a Russian Infernal Machine. Although it looks relatively harmless, the iron cone would be filled with gunpowder and was designed to explode when hit by a ship.

Infernal Machines were used by the Russians during the Crimean War (1854-56), and were sometimes treated with a lack of concern by British naval officers. 

This backfired (literally) when an admiral on board the Exmouth accidentally pressed the detonator when examining one of these mines. The explosion temporarily blinded him, and left many of the crew with burns and scalds.

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Sea Deity

In 2017, Eve Shepherd was commissioned by the National Maritime Museum to create three sculptures that would contrast with and challenge the Museum’s numerous busts of white, upper-class naval men. In the Sea Things gallery you’ll find these three busts sitting amongst the likes of Vice Admiral Lord Nelson and William Pitt the Younger. 

Sea Deity is one of Eve's creations. It was made in collaboration with families from Action for Refugees Lewisham, a group made up of refugees from around the globe. Together, they shared and explored their experiences of forced migration.

The result was this fictitious God of the sea, which speaks to lived experiences of making a perilous journey across the ocean. In the gallery you can examine the symbolic sculpture up close - and even hear Sea Deity talk.

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Join a tour

Gain a deeper insight into some of the Museum’s most prized – and lesser-known – objects on display with one of our friendly guides.

Daily tours are available when you visit, or you can choose to follow one of our dedicated audio guides and explore the Museum at your own pace.

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Visiting Sea Things

Where is the gallery?

Sea Things is a permanent gallery at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, located on the first floor of the East Wing. Entry to the Museum is free: book tickets online in advance to guarantee entry and receive updates before you visit.

Follow the gallery guide

Tours and audio guides

Sea Things features as part of the range of audio guides available at the National Maritime Museum. Listen to a free introduction to the gallery here, or find out more about objects on display by ordering a special Treasures Tour.


BSL is included as part of the National Maritime Museum audio guide. Large print guides are also available inside the gallery. For more information about accessibility at the National Maritime Museum, click here.

Gallery closures

Occasionally some gallery closures may affect your visit to the National Maritime Museum. Find details of upcoming closures here.

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This gallery is supported by:

  • Foyle Foundation
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