Collections Frequently Asked Questions
Who may use the collections? Where can I use them?
The Maritime Research Center is open to park staff and all members of the public. Archival collections (photos, original documents, etc.) are available to Park staff and researchers for use in the Research Center with valid photo identification by appointment only. Walk-in requests for archival collections access will not be honored. Access to the Park's stored museum artifact and stored small craft collection is currently unavailable as we move these collections to a new facility. Please contact the reference staff to make an appointment, and refer to our Access Policy and Rules Governing Use for a full list of rules for the Research Center.
Where is the Maritime Research Center located?
The Maritime Research Center is located on the 3rd Floor of Building E at Fort Mason Center. Please see Plan Your Research Visit for directions, parking availability, and other information to help plan your visit.
How do I find archival and object collections?
See Collections Catalogs & Finding Aids for links to the archival, object, and library publications catalogs. For more information on finding photographs, see our research guide, Finding Photographs in the Historic Document Collections (Adobe Acrobat .pdf file, 815 Kb)
May I browse or retrieve materials myself?
Only the public reference materials in the Research Center are available for self-service. The collections stacks are closed to everyone except authorized staff. Paging of materials is handled by the Park's Maritime Research Center staff. Some materials are located in offsite storage, and paging times vary.
Can I check out materials from the Maritime Research Center?
Full borrowing privileges are extended to NPS staff only; limited privileges are extended to volunteers, interns, Library Friends and Park Association staff.
Most Stack materials can be borrowed through interlibrary loan service, for in-library use in your local library. Rare library materials, archival materials, and audio-visual collections are not available through interlibrary loan, and must be used in the Maritime Research Center.
Is help available to researchers?
Reference assistance about the collections with limited research is available. Staff are unable to undertake lengthy research investigations.
Are there restrictions on what sort of items I can bring into the Maritime Research Center?
Yes; please refer to our Access Policy and Rules Governing Use for a full list of rules for the Maritime Research Center. Lockers are available for storage of personal property.
Does the Maritime Research Center provide computer facilities for word processing and other applications? Is wifi available?
While researchers may bring laptops, tablets, and silent smart phones into the reading room, the Maritime Research Center does not provide computers for word processing or other software applications. Computer workstations in the Maritime Research Center are for collections catalog access and research only. Wifi is available.
How can I get copies of materials?
Requests for reproductions from library and archival collections may be available, depending on the item's condition. Please refer to the Park's Duplication Services for information on reproductions and pricing; reproductions are provided on a cost recovery charge-back basis in accordance with 43 U.S. Code 1460 and National Park Service (NPS) policy. Fees recovered from the delivery of reproductions are used to support the use and preservation of the Park's collections. All copies are produced by Park staff only. Payment is accepted with a credit card or checking account via our Pay.gov site, and must be received in advance before an order can be processed.
Do you have ship's passenger lists, or information on life on the ships?
We have some passenger lists; if you know the name of the ship, and the date of the voyage, you can contact us to see if we have any resources on those passengers. (The majority of passenger lists for arrivals on the West Coast are at other institutions--see our Genealogy Research page for more information). We also have material describing life on board ships--contact us for recommendations of first-person accounts of sailors' seafaring lives, immigrant's experiences, and works on typical conditions aboard ships.
My relative was a sailor--can you help me find information on him or her? My relative served on a Navy ship--can you help me?
If you contact us with the name of the ship on which they served, we may be able to locate resources such as a picture of the vessel; we have some information on crews as well. We also have a fairly large collection of cruise books, the "year book" or "memory book" of a crew's voyage. See Genealogy Research at SF Maritime NHP for more information on our resources and those in other collections.
Can I volunteer at the Maritime Research Center? Do you have library, archives, or objects internships?
The Research Center periodically has volunteer and internship opportunities for both short-term, project-based and long-term assignments. Please contact the Park's Volunteer Office to learn more.
How can I donate library material to the Park's Maritime Research Center?
Questions concerning donations of library materials (books and periodicals) should be directed to the Park's non-profit cooperating partner, the Friends of the San Francisco Maritime Museum Library.
How can I donate material to the archives or museum collection?
The Park collects and preserves materials in all formats that document the maritime heritage of the Pacific Coast. Questions concerning donations of archival materials or objects to the museum collection may be directed to the attention of Keri Koehler, Collections Manager: e-mail us. Please include a description of the item(s) you would like to donate and a digital image of the item(s). Archival items offered for donation are currently reviewed monthly by the Park's Acquisitions Committee. The Park can not appraise items offered for donation.
Want to learn more about donating archives in general? See the Society of American Archivists' Donating Your Personal or Family Papers to a Repository.
What are my books, photos, etc., worth? How can I care for my personal collections?
The Park staff can not provide this information to individuals; please see Conservation/Preservation Information for the General Public at the Conservation Online website for links to resources and information.