Since the 1980s the Museum has been acquiring a collection that shares the maritime stories and history of Aotearoa New Zealand. The Museum holds a collection of over 130 watercraft ranging in size and complexity from a surfboard to an 18-metre ketch-rigged scow TED ASHBY.  This includes watercraft artifacts from the earliest days of Pacific voyaging, to the arrival of Europeans and through to present day such as canoes, yachts, waka, vessels parts and steam engines.

NZMM Behind the Scenes: Collection Care

Digitisation Resource Hub

Explore our comprehensive collection of guides created by our Digitisation Team, aimed at individuals or institutions embarking on a museum digitisation journey.


Collection FAQs

  • Polynesian and Māori vessels and navigation
  • European voyages of exploration
  • Settlement and immigration
  • Early coastal trading
  • Whaling and sealing
  • Modern commercial shipping
  • Lifeboat services, pilotage and coastguard activities
  • Navigation and marine surveying
  • Maritime art and crafts
  • Recreation and sporting maritime activities
  • Maritime trades
  • Harbour and port history

We do not have the space or resources to display all the items in our collection, and some are too fragile for long-term display. However, we strive to make our collection as accessible as possible, for example via our new Online Collection database, or by research request.

If you would like to view items in our collection, please contact the Collections Team - at least 10 days in advance.

Yes! The museum has an extensive online collection of thousands of items which can be viewed for free. Click here to browse.

While the library does not hold passenger or crew lists, additional resources in the collection may include:

  • Photographs of some passenger ships
  • Selected ephemera such as deck plans, accommodation plans or menus
  • A small number of shipboard diaries and logs

Other useful resources

Photography on-site is allowed for many library and archival items, with staff guidance. Some restrictions may apply.
Charges apply for scanning. Fees for scans, copies and prints apply. Rights and usage costs apply.

Photography is permitted in our galleries for personal use only. 

If you would like to reproduce material from the collection, the copyright approval must be obtained through the rights holder not through the Museum. 

The Museum is moving our offsite collection to an improved collection storage facility, to better care for the collection in the long term.

From 1 July 2023 to 30 June 2024, the Acquisitions committee will cease the appraisal of new donations for the permanent collection. This will allow the team to focus on the collection move to ensure that donated treasures are well cared for. We regret the delay, as donations are essential to complete gaps in the collection and to preserve maritime heritage.

Stories from our collection