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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The Museum holds an extensive collection of ship portraits in oil, watercolour, pen and ink, and pencil. Most are by South Australian marine artists and capture the ships and ketches that worked in local waters. The collection includes over forty 19th century ship portraits, many by notable local marine artists such as George Bourne, Frederick Dawson, and George Frederick Gregory. Twentieth century artists represented in the collection include Harold Dalton Hall and Port Adelaide based artist, Charles Henry Moore. Most of these works were transferred to the Museum from the Port Adelaide Nautical Museum, an institution with origins that stem back to 1872.