Caird Library and Archive

Visit the Caird Library and Archive at the National Maritime Museum - the world's largest maritime library and archive collection.

Caird Library reopening update

We are delighted to be welcoming visitors back to the Caird Library and Archive. The Library will open on 8 December.

To keep everyone safe, we will be operating with social distancing measures in place.

Booking an appointment to visit the Library is essential. To do so, follow the three steps below:

  1. Register with Aeon, our online ordering system - or use your existing account

  2. Search our online catalogues and use the “order” button to place items you wish to study in “Keep for my review”

  3. E-mail Library staff at to schedule your visit (we regret we cannot schedule appointments by telephone)

All appointments need to be made with at least one week’s notice. We recommend allowing as much time as possible to arrange your appointment, as study spaces will be limited. 

For more details about your visit to the Caird Library, please see our special page about visiting the Library which includes FAQs and booking deadline dates. 

Visit the Caird Library

Temporary Opening times

Tuesday - Wednesday, 10.30am-3.45pm

Contact us about the Library and Archive collection

If you have a question about accessing the Library and Archive collection, we recommend you check our FAQs. If you need further assistance, please do contact us:  


Tel: +44 (0)20 8312 6516 (during Library opening hours)  

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 over 12,000 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. Also included are 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 everyone and can be accessed for free online or in person, all that is required is to register for a Reader's Ticket.

A team of professional librarians and archivists 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

Our catalogues and research guides are great resources to help you explore our collections and prepare for a visit to the Library. 

Search the Archive catalogue

Search the Library catalogue


Research Guides

Research Guide: Cutty Sark

Research Guide: Merchant Navy - tracing Merchant seamen

Research Guide: Merchant Navy - First World War

Research Guide: Royal Navy - tracing people

Electronic Resources Page - content is accessible only on the museum network


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 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

Crew Lists, Agreements and Official Logs request form

Masters’, Mates’, Engineers’ and Skippers’ certificates request form

More about family history research

1915 crew lists - This freely available searchable database was created as a First World War Centenary Project with the help of many international volunteers and especially Jan and Pete Owens at the Crew List Index Project. 

Discover more about the collection

Read the monthly blog from members of the Caird Library and Archive team to find out more about items in the collection. From major collections to personal diaries, discover more about the stories waiting to be discovered with a Reader's Ticket.

See all blog posts

New this month: The 'Operation Chariot' plan