This post was written by Sonia Bacca of the Caird Library and Archive.

The Caird Library is a comprehensive reference library and a rich research resource for all.

Situated within the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, the Caird Library and Archive represents the four sites of the Royal Museums Greenwich, consisting of the Museum, the Royal Observatory, the Cutty Sark and the Queen’s House.

The library’s printed collections not only cover every aspect of maritime history, including piracy, navigation, emigration, shipping companies, shipwrecks, biographies, and the two World wars; they also include a rare astronomy library, the core of which was established by the 7th Astronomer Royal George Biddell Airy (1801-1892). In addition to rare books and an extensive collection of journal titles that include historical as well as current maritime and naval history content, the Caird Library provides access to a selection of the Museum’s very fine collection of prints and drawings.

Special collections for researching family history, merchant shipping and warships complete the library holdings.

The Archive’s collection of manuscripts and original documents covers all aspects of British seafaring history from the 14th to the 20th centuries. It includes public records relating to the administration of the Royal Navy and the Merchant Navy, shipping company records, and personal papers comprising journals, diaries and letters. The Caird Library and Archive also houses a rich collection of charts and maps dating back to the 15th century.


Caird Library - Atlas P11 - [NE Atlantic, Ireland to Cape Verde]

PICTURE OF ‘Atlas P/11 – [NE Atlantic, Ireland to Cape Verde] – circa 1660’

The collections of the Caird Library and Archive are available to both academic and professional researchers and as well as to members of the public.

Whilst there has been a library at the National Maritime Museum since it opened in 1937, our modern Reading Room opened in 2011 as part of the Museum’s Sammy Ofer Wing development.  Open from Monday to Saturday from 10:00 to 16:45, the Reading Room provides over 40 research spaces.  A Group Study allows Library users to talk and discuss the items they are viewing; the Quiet Study Area is where noise is kept to a minimum.

On the open shelves of the library, readers are able to browse over 6,000 books and core reference resources, such as the Lloyd’s Register of Shipping, the Lloyd’s List, the Mercantile Navy List and the Navy List. Users of the library have also access to the electronic resources the Museum subscribes to.  Free public WiFi is available in the Library and all reader desks are equipped with power sockets.

Caird Library images of Voluteers studing documents

Reading Room Readers

The online ordering system – Aeon – allows readers to order items in advance of their visit and to request to view a maximum of 42 items per day.  Documents are produced from the onsite archive stores hourly throughout the Library’s weekday opening hours.

To discover more about the Caird Library and Archive and its collections, please visit the Caird Library webpage.


The Caird Library and Archive attended the first two History Day events but will sadly not be able to attend the 27 November event. Please tweet questions with the hashtag #HistDay15 for more information and look for them at History Day 2016!