The following is an announcement from the National Maritime Museum: Development Project, written for family history enthusiasts. After reading the announcement, you may want to take an online survey.
The National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, London, intends to develop enhanced access to its research collections – manuscripts, prints and drawings, charts, maps and atlases, ship plans and ephemera - as an integral part of its wider museum offer. The collections contain over 2 million archival items and complement the holdings of the National Archive by supporting journeys of discovery across a range of subjects, from the big histories of exploration and empire to the personal histories of millions of ordinary people whose lives were touched by the sea. The Museum wishes to make stronger connections between its archival collections, gallery displays, learning programmes and use of new technologies to create an active museum experience that supports deeper engagement in our subjects and collections for those who wish to discover more about their ancestors’ lives and the sea.
2. The Proposal
The proposed development may include:
User-friendly searching across archival and library collections online before a visit, pre-ordering of material to view on arrival and efficient ordering and delivery onsite.
A quiet and well-equipped reading room for individual study of the archival and library collections on site at Greenwich
A collaborative research space designed to support the work of small family groups wishing to access original archival and library material and discuss it
Access to relevant study resources (digital and hard copy) at Greenwich, including information about relevant objects in the museum collection, other collections and access to PortCities
Digitised transcripts of key texts and family history resources available online
Opportunities to find out about items in our object collections which shed light on your ancestors’ maritime lives using Collections Online and to view those on display (objects in store by appointment)
Access to friendly, knowledgeable and professional staff
Drop in and booked workshops which guide people through the collections and provide entertaining opportunities for families to produce their own creative account of an ancestor’s life at sea
Facility to email results of work directly back to home or relatives in the UK or overseas
State-of-the-art media studio facilities supporting video links to family members overseas
Opportunities to share your work and discoveries with a wider public – e.g. through informal discussion groups and input into a ‘personal histories resource bank’ available to anyone in the galleries and online
Social spaces to relax, have a drink, eat lunch and browse the shop
3. Research Examples
Examples of ways in which you might use the development are provided below:
You think your great grandfather might have served in the merchant navy during World War I. You bring your family to look up his Masters’ Certificate to find out where he came from, his address, what he looked like – including the colour of his hair and eyes – and the ships he served on. Then you search our collections for documents, pictures and objects that tell you more about his life at sea. You could find out what the ships looked like, where he slept, what he ate, who his sailing companions were, the places he visited and the wartime actions he was involved in. If you are lucky, diaries, letters and journals might exist that were written by someone on the very same ship at around the same time as your relative, giving you a real opportunity to touch your great grandfather’s life. Your search could take you through the illustrated catalogues and information online, into the galleries to look at objects on display and into the archive to see original documents that you ordered.
Perhaps one of your ancestors served at the Battle of Trafalgar. Study the ‘Trafalgar Roll’ to find out who was there, where they came from, what ship they served on and what position they held on board. Once you have found out about their ship, look at accounts of the battle to discover the role played by that vessel and its crew, and what it would have been like to experience a naval battle first-hand. Ask to see an original letter in Nelson’s hand to look at his signature and get closer to the man who led your ancestor and his companions to a historically significant victory. Find out what the ship looked like in our painting collection, and discover more about Nelson and Trafalgar in the galleries.
Your great-grandfather was born in Goa and served as a steward for P&O on the Pacific and Indian Ocean going vessels over 100 years ago. Look through the business records to find out about where he was recruited and perhaps discover the town or region from which he originally came.
The online survey is available at http://www.nmm.ac.uk/upload/package/50/national_maritime_museum.htm.