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 has substantial collection of artefacts connected with Australian shipwrecks with a focus on South Australia. It is the custodian of the Gavin Berecry shipwreck collection acquired over many years at dive sites across Australia. Gavin Berecry (1940- 1993) was an amateur diver who salvaged material before the introduction of the Historic Shipwrecks Act (1976). This material was transferred from the Department of Environment and Heritage to the museum in 2006. The shipwreck collection includes ship fittings, cargo, crockery, personal possessions, coins, furniture, and figureheads from shipwreck sites, medals and certificates of bravery issued to those who assisted in rescue efforts, artefacts commemorating shipwrecks and their victims, and published narratives of these maritime tragedies. The shipwrecks represented in the collection range from 17th century Dutch shipwrecks to vessels that sank in the 1960s.