Maritime Research Center

The Maritime Research Center provides access to the library, archives and museum collections and encourages research in maritime history and humanities.

View of the reading room in the Maritime Research Center showing researchers, NPS uniformed staff as well as visitors, at tables consulting archives, books, and audio materials, Reference Librarian Gina Bardi at the Reference Desk in the background
Reading Room of the Maritime Research Center

(NPS photo/K. Kvam)

The Maritime Research Center of San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park is the premier resource for San Francisco and Pacific Coast maritime history and the portal into the Park's collections. Originating in 1939, the collections have become the largest maritime collection on the West Coast and the largest museum and research collection in the National Park Service. Our unique resources serve and inform historians, genealogists, artists, authors, students, filmmakers, sailors, boat and model builders, and performers from all over the world, as well as NPS staff. Our collections are developed through the support of our partners, donations, and library collection purchases. Reference staff are available by phone, email, fax or in person by appointment to assist you with your research in all of the Park's collections--with books, photographs, or even the objects cared for by collections staff.


The collections include more than:

  • 35,000 published titles comprising over 74,000 items
  • 500,000 photographs
  • 1,800 archival and manuscript collections
  • 150,000 naval architecture and marine engineering drawings
  • 3,000 maps and charts
  • 150,000 feet of motion picture film and video
  • 6,000 historical archaeology artifacts
  • 2,500 pieces of folk and fine art
  • 40,000 history objects
  • 100 small craft
  • 50,000 pieces of ephemera
  • 600 oral histories and audio recordings

Browse Collections highlights by subject or by their chronological links to maritime historical events via "This Day in Maritime History"

Photo Galleries (historic images, images of items from the Collections, Park images, etc.)


The museum Object Collections run the gamut from large parts of sailing vessels rescued from an undignified demise, to fine art created for the documentation and admiration of such vessels. There are items from the everyday lives of people making their living at sea, relying on the sea for transportation, and of those who became wealthy from their maritime endeavors. The object collections are a treasure trove of the iconic to the practical, containing tangible links that help bring maritime history to life.

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. If you are in need of research assistance during this time, please contact us. We thank you for your cooperation and understanding.


The Archival Collections concern the history and achievements of seafaring Americans primarily of the Pacific Coast of North America covering the span of history from the California Gold Rush era to the recent past. They include paper records (such as manuscripts, naval architecture and marine engineering drawings), photographs, film and video, and audio records on tape and digital media. The major subjects encompassed in the archives are oceanic and coastal trade, the San Francisco Bay and river systems, marine harvesting, marine business, labor and shore-based support activities.


The Library Collections consist of published titles dating from 1536 to the present, including cartographic materials dating from 1650 to the present primarily covering the Pacific Basin and the West Coast of the United States, as well as audio and video materials in multiple formats.

Small Craft

The Park's Small Craft Collections consist of traditional and significant vessels that provide a fine introduction to boatbuilding and maritime trades.


Museum Collections highlights by subject:

Last updated: August 10, 2022

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

2 Marina Boulevard,
Building E, 2nd Floor

San Francisco, CA 94123


415 561-7000
The public information office is open from 8 A.M. to 5 P.M. PST.

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