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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Nautical Instrument Collection

This collection comprises approximately 40 nautical instruments dating from 1800 - 1960s.  The instruments were used for navigating and charting at sea and include compasses, sextants, quadrants, octants, chronometers, parallel rules, marine protractors, binoculars, telescopes and station pointers.  Many of these objects were acquired via the Port Adelaide Institute established in 1872 (later the Port Adelaide Nautical Museum).