What we do

A conservator at a desk works on a textile object

Our Conservation team restoring items from our collection.

  • What we Do

    What we Do

    The Australian National Maritime Museum is Australia’s national centre for maritime collections, exhibitions, research and archaeology. As Sydney’s most visible national cultural institution, we are committed to connecting audiences right across Australia in both urban and regional areas.

    From our base, the museum presents a changing program of stimulating exhibitions and events to share Australia’s maritime history and connect the stories, objects, people and places that are part of our country’s narrative. We welcome over 520,000 visitors annually including families and interstate and international tourists. Over 10,000 members support the museum and regularly interact with special events and activities designed to connect our audiences in meaningful and thought-provoking ways.

    Custodians of Floating Historical Vessels

    The museum has one of the largest floating historical vessel collections in the world, featuring the renowned replica of Captain Cook’s HMB Endeavour, the former Navy destroyer HMAS Vampire, the former Navy patrol boat HMAS Advance and former Navy submarine HMAS Onslow. Docked at our wharves, visitors can climb aboard to explore life at sea. More about our vessels.

    Exhibitions and Permanent Galleries

    Our permanent and temporary exhibitions and our National Maritime Collection explore and represent Australia’s close links to the sea covering Indigenous Australian’s deep connection to ocean, early exploration, immigration, commerce, defence, adventure, sport, play and identity. From fascinating artefacts, thought-provoking exhibitions and fun activities for kids (and big kids), the museum gives local and international visitors a chance to connect to Australia’s maritime past and present in an innovative way.

    Educating School and University Students

    The museum offers over 30 workshops and tours across a number of curriculum areas. Run by qualified and experienced teacher guides, sessions are imaginative and hands-on and suitable for students from year one to university level. Remote and regional schools can attend via the latest digital technology. See schools & educators.

    Travelling Programs Connecting the Museum to All Australians

    Connecting with audiences outside of Sydney, interstate and across regional Australia is a big part of what we do. Our diverse on tour exhibitions gives regional communities the chance to view and learn more about the National Maritime Collection and its many fascinating stories.

    Trips on the Endeavour Replica

    The museum regularly undertakes voyages around the Australian coast on the HMB Endeavour giving Australians and school children all over the country direct access to this important vessel. The Endeavour has visited many remote and regional ports across Australia, even completing a 13-month circumnavigation of the country in 2012.

    Curators and Experts

    Managing the collection requires specialist knowledge, extensive research and relevant experience. Our highly skilled team is made up of experts in many fields and includes conservators, curators, maritime archaeologists, registrars, administrators, shipwrights, designers, librarians and educational specialists. Our curators and experts also play a key role in the community, assisting smaller regional museums and community organisations to maintain regional maritime heritage collections around the country. See our people

    Grants, Funding and Internships

    The museum’s Maritime Museums of Australia Project Support Scheme (MMAPSS), is a community cultural grant program that assists and supports community-based and not-for-profit organisations across Australia care for our maritime heritage. The scheme provides grants across a number of categories including collection management, conservation, presentation, development of education or public programs, and training for paid or unpaid workers of not-for-profit organisations in caring for maritime collections. See grants & awards

    Learn about our history

    Venue Hire

    Hire a venue at the Australian National Maritime Museum and enjoy harbour views, a glittering city skyline and a totally unique event experience. Make a statement by booking one of 8 stunning venues all poised on the edge of famous Darling Harbour, Sydney. Learn more about our Venues.


  • Service Charter

    Service Charter

    The museum’s service charter sets out the standards which you can expect from us and gives you an opportunity to suggest improvements or to resolve any problems.

    Our Service Standards

    The museum is committed to providing services to all its customers, both external and internal, in a way that is courteous, equitable, prompt, professional and ethical. To the fullest extent our resources allow, we will provide: 

    • courteous, well-trained and knowledgeable staff at all levels
    • a safe, clean and accessible environment
    • quality services to all segments of our community
    • up-to-date information about our products and services
    • prompt, efficient and accurate responses to enquiries
    • opening hours that reflect community needs

    Complaints and Feedback

    We welcome your suggestions for improving our services and aim to resolve any problems promptly. We are committed to regular museum user surveys and research to ensure we are meeting your needs.

    Here are some of the ways you can communicate with us.

    • Speak to a staff member in person.
    • Complete the Comments Book in the museum foyer which is reviewed regularly and responded to where possible.
    • Express your views on our exhibitions at the Discussion Points that we set up in our galleries from time to time.
    • Fill in a formal complaint form at our front desk.
    • Write to us at 2 Murray Street, Sydney, NSW 2000. We aim to reply within 14 days.
    • Contact our Visitor Services and Ticketing Team Leader by phone: +61 2 9298 3777 or email info@museum.gov.au.

  • Exhibitions


    Popular Exhibitions

    The main museum building has 3700 square metres of exhibition space. Our core exhibitions consider maritime aspects of Indigenous culture, European exploration, immigration, sport and leisure, defence and Australia's maritime links with the USA.

    The museum's first special temporary exhibition told the story of the Japanese midget submarine attack on Sydney Harbour in World War II. Since then we have explored a huge range of subjects, including:

    • Pirates!
    • What about Women? Our place in Maritime History
    • Secrets of the Sea – Myth, Lore & Legend
    • Greek Australians and the Sea
    • Lamalera – Whale Hunters of Indonesia
    • Tears, Fears & Cheers – Migration to Australia 1788-1998 (Multicultural Marketing Award winner, 1999)
    • Smugglers – Customs & Contraband 1901-2001 (for Centenary of Federation celebrations in 2001, with a special version touring the country)
    • Charles Darwin – Voyages and ideas that shook the world
    • Exposed – the story of swimwear
    • On their own – Britain’s child migrants
    • Fish in Australian art
    • East of India – forgotten trade with Australia

    Major International Exhibitions

    The museum imports major overseas exhibitions, often touring them around Australia as well as displaying them at Darling Harbour. These have included major productions like Mary Rose - Life and Death on Henry VIII's Lost Warship (Mary Rose Trust, UK) and Ocean Planet (Smithsonian Institution, USA). Les Génies de la Mer - Masterpieces of French Naval Sculpture (Musée National de la Marine, France), with its direct physical links to Louis XIV, Marie-Antoinette and Napoleon, drew record attendances. Scott’s last expedition, developed by the Natural History Museum, London, the Canterbury Museum, Christchurch NZ and the Antarctic Heritage Trust NZ, reunited rare scientific specimens with real artefacts used by Scott on his tragic last expedition. More recently Vikings – Beyond the legend from the Swedish History Museum was the biggest collection of Viking artefacts ever to be exhibited in Australia.

    The museum was the first major Australian museum to tour international shows outside capital cities with our imported exhibitions travelling from Newcastle to Warrnambool and Fremantle.

  • Conservation


    Learn how the museum’s conservation team preserves our collection with respect for the integrity of each object. Working to the highest standards including examination, treatment, research, documentation and training, the team makes sure that present and future visitors can learn, appreciate and enjoy our wonderful collection.


    Conservation aims to reduce damage and loss of our cultural heritage. Conservation:

    • minimises changes to our collection and objects on loan to us
    • protects these precious objects from the climate
    • slows down physical and chemical deterioration

    Conservators use 'minimal intervention' methods, aiming to stabilise the object (chemically and physically) and keep its original material. They meticulously document its condition and treatment in reports and photographs. This information is useful for the object's long-term conservation.

    When treating an object, a conservator must respect its integrity, working with materials that age well and, if possible, using reversible techniques.


    The museum has four specialist conservators. They are experts in conservation management, and the conservation of paper, photographic material, textiles, wooden, metal and composite objects, mixed collections and preventive conservation.

    We also fortunate to have four dedicated volunteers - some have been working with the conservation team for many years. Each brings distinct and highly regarded skills and abilities to their work with us.

    See a restoration of a historic picture frame, including putty made in the traditional way. Follow our Conservation blog.


    Remedial conservation

    Occasionally an item is in such fragile condition or deteriorating at such a rate, that it could be lost in a relatively short time. Remedial conservation arrests the damaging processes or reinforces the item's structure. This action sometimes modifies the item's appearance. Examples of remedial conservation are:

    • disinfestation of a textile
    • desalination of ceramics
    • deacidification of paper
    • dehydration of a wet archaeological material
    • stabilisation of corroded metal
    Preventive conservation

    This 'hands off' conservation doesn't interfere with the object or change its appearance. Preventive measures aim to stop deterioration and loss. Examples of preventive conservation include:

    • storage, handling, packing and transportation
    • environmental management (light, humidity, pollution and pest control)
    • emergency planning
    • education of staff
    • public awareness.

    Restoration only occurs when an item has lost part of its significance or function through past alteration or deterioration. In this case, we may restore the item with an eye to aiding its appreciation, understanding and use. Restoration is based on respect for the original material and usually modifies the item's appearance. Examples of restoration include:

    • retouching a painting
    • reassembling a broken sculpture
    • reshaping a basket
    • filling losses on a glass vessel.
    Professional practice

    The Conservation team at the ANMM preserves and presents the museum's collection with respect for the integrity of each object. We are directly responsible for developing protocols and procedures for the conservation, display, care and handling of the museum's collection. Our staff strives to provide the highest standards in all aspects of conservation (including examination, treatment, research, documentation and training), so that present and future visitors may learn, appreciate and enjoy our wonderful collection.

    Caring for the Collection

    The Australian National Maritime Museum's registration and photography department looks after the museum's collection and object loans.

    The role of this team also includes storage, freight, internal object movement, inventory control and the valuation program. They also assist with exhibition development and installation and help manage the museum’s digitisation program and collections and exhibitions database.

    • There are about 140,000 items in the museum's collection and without this department the artefacts would be inaccessible - physically and intellectually.
    • The photography studio produces original photography for collection identification and control, exhibition graphics, publications and promotion. It also manages the museum's large digital photographic library.
    • The department's staff holds relevant tertiary and post graduate qualifications and is skilled in the various aspects of collection management, information management and photography. Some staff members are skilled operators of heavy lifting equipment and hold appropriate certificates in this field.
    Useful downloads

  • Visiting Vessels Program

    Visiting Vessels Program

    The museum's visiting vessels program has brought some popular attractions to Darling Harbour. The largest in scale and impact was the Netherlands-built replica of the 17th century Dutch East India Company flagship Batavia. The original Batavia was wrecked on Houtman Abrolhos, off the coast of Western Australia, in 1629. The Australia Netherlands Chamber of Commerce brought the superb replica to the museum in 2000 for Sydney's Olympic Games year.

    Other spectacular visiting vessels have included the Australian-built replica of Duyfken, the first known European ship to visit Australia, a Soviet Foxtrot submarine and a replica Viking ship.

  • Calendar of Events

    Calendar of Events

    The museum offers a diverse range of programs and activities for people of all ages. In 1996 we held the first Classic & Wooden Boat Festival in conjunction with the Wooden Boat Association. This continues to be a popular weekend-long festival. The museum's annual events program includes educational workshops and activities connected to major exhibitions and Sydney festivals, rooftop projections and other diverse entertainment. See Events & Activities

  • Ongoing Improvements

    Ongoing Improvements

    The Cape Bowling Green Lighthouse from North Queensland was reassembled on the north-east corner of the site and opened in 1994. With promenade decking from the front of the museum to Pyrmont Bay ferry wharf, the museum created its Welcome Wall along its northern boundary in 1999. Over 25,000 migrant names are recorded on this feature.

    Also in 1999 we opened the Wharf 7 Maritime Heritage Centre next door to the main building. This three-storey structure houses collections, laboratories, workshops and the Vaughan Evans Library. That year we opened the Peter Doyle Learning Centre for school groups, workshops and community use.

    New facilities including fleet workshops and staff amenities were added to the South Wharf in 2000 and new berths were created with the installation of the new Festival Pontoon and Heritage Pontoon. In 2011 we redeveloped our Eating and drinking and venue spaces, adding the Ben Lexcen Terrace and the Waterside Studio.

    The Next Steps

    When the museum opened it was on the northern fringe of the Darling Harbour retail and leisure precinct. Behind it lay the quiet inner-Sydney suburb Pyrmont with its defunct railway lines, wharves and industries.

    Reinvented for the 21st century, Pyrmont has become a vibrant residential, restaurant and entertainment district. The museum now stands at the centre of a public transport hub. Buses and ferries provide a service to Circular Quay.

    Plans are now underway to redevelop the museum for the next 25 years. The first stage in the new masterplan is the addition of a new Waterfront Pavilion to be built adjacent to HMAS Vampire and HMAS Onslow. The pavilion opened September 2015. 

    Future plans also include a new Discovery Centre, Endeavour Centre and the redevelopment of the museum’s core exhibitions.