A visit to the National Maritime Museum, nestled in the heart of Greenwich, was the perfect activity for a rainy Monday. This must see attraction is the largest maritime museum in the world and had a vast collection of model ships, cartography, maritime art, and interactive exhibitions. It is a fine display for a British history that is steeped with maritime ties. The entire museum is creatively laid out and encourages every visitor to be an explorer of the sea.
A new feature of the museum is the new entrance from Greenwich Park. Yinka Shonibare’s Fourth Plinth sculpture ‘Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle’ is displayed right outside of the entrance. The museum offers walking tours that take you on the sculpture’s journey from Trafalgar Square.
I entered the museum from the traditional entrance and was greeted with giant models of sailing ships hanging from the ceiling. I started with an exhibit titled “Explorers: the America’s and North-West Passage.” I stepped into a dark room that transformed into the bow of a ship. A soundtrack of seagulls and creaking wood complete the feeling that you are on a sea-voyage. Displays of gold and riches illustrates the . Next comes an ice cave, showing that explorers have now shifted their focus from the Americas to the North and South Poles.
The magnificent state barge of Prince Frederick, the son of King George II , is proudly displayed on the ground floor. It is described as the limousine of the sea. Measuring 19.2 meters in length, it is one of the museum’s largest objects. After the prince’s death in 1751, it was used as the principle royal barge.
The colorful collection of ship badges and figureheads caught my eye. The figureheads ranged from a fierce looking bulldog to Greek warriors. A figurehead is a carved wooden decoration at the front of a ship. They were popular in the 16th-19th centuries and were used to identify ships in a non-literate way. In 1894 the Royal Navy abolished the use of figureheads on major vessels and in 1918 the Navy adopted the use of badges as a way to identify vessels. The symbol relates to the name of the ship and must be approved by the Queen when she approves the name of a new ship.
The first floor offers a large open play space for children. The Great Map is a large interactive world map that visitors can use to learn more about some of the most exciting events in Britain’s maritime history. Using a touch screen tablet, you can walk across the map to hear seafaring stories.
I also thought “Traders: the East India Company and Asia” exhibit on the first floor was very interesting. It included interactive displays where viewers can pull out drawers and try and guess the names of spices based on their smells.
There is so much to see and do in the museum, it is well worth a visit on your trip to Greenwich. The museum is located at Romney Road, Greenwich SE10 9NF. It is open from 10am-6pm daily. It is only a 3 minute walk from the Cutty Sark DLR station. Entrance to the museum is free!