The South Australian Maritime Museum preserves the oldest nautical collection in Australia. In 1872 the Port Adelaide Institute began a museum collection to complement its library and its educational and social programs. That collection grew over the following century reflecting the seafarers and the ships that visited Port Adelaide. It is now held in trust at the South Australian Maritime Museum.

The Maritime Museum’s collections ranges from the Port Adelaide Lighthouse that was first lit in 1869 to a plaque that explorer Matthew Flinders left at Memory Cove in 1802 to mark the loss of eight seafarers. It includes figureheads, nautical instruments, bathing costumes, shipwreck artefacts, paintings, models and vessels.

Our scope is the maritime heritage of South Australia from the coast to inland waters. The collection of over almost 20,000 objects and over 20,000 images is at once a window to the heritage of the local community and to the ships of the world.

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Adelaide Steamship Company Collection

The Adelaide Steamship Company was Australia's largest shipping company and one of South Australia's most successful business ventures. The Museum's Adsteam collection includes several hundred objects including ship fittings, furnishings and badged crockery and cutlery, tickets, brochures, ships plans and passes, models and paintings of ships from the line, documents, wage books, ledgers, uniforms and furnishing from the company's offices. Material relating to the company's operation was donated by Svitzer. The collection helps document the founding of the company in 1875 and trace its history through the themes of colonial enterprise, wartime and defence, work and culture, cruising and pleasure.