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Library and Archives

Premier Resource for Maritime Research

The Mariners’ Library and Archives holds the largest maritime history collection in the Western Hemisphere. With its rich collections and international scope, the Library and Archives is a premier resource for maritime research.

Old library book on a shelf

About the Library and Archives

The purpose of the Library and Archives, as envisioned by founder Archer M. Huntington, is two-fold. Primarily, Huntington saw the Library and Archives as a research center for students, writers, scientists, and others pursuing various lines of maritime investigation. Additionally, Huntington wanted the Library and Archives to act as a repository for reference materials to be used by the staff in connection with the identification, appraisal, maintenance, and display of the Museum’s collections, exhibits, and programs.

Today, The Mariners’ Library and Archives also houses The United States Lighthouse Society Wayne Wheeler Library. Deposited in 2018, the library holds 4,000 volumes of books, journals, postcards, and lighthouse reports. Most materials are related to United States lighthouses, but a segment includes international lighthouses. It is believed to be one of the largest lighthouse libraries in existence.

Library and Archives staff assist researchers both in person and remotely.

In-Person Research

The Mariners’ are in the process of expanding the Library and Archives. In the meantime, the staff can access roughly 90% of the Library and Archives extensive collections, including the renowned Chris-Craft Collection. 

Until our expansion plans are complete, Library and Archives staff can arrange in-person research visits by appointment only. Please review our guidelines and email us at [email protected] to schedule an appointment.

Young white female and older white male at a work table looking at a Chris-Craft marketing brochure. In the background are large flat files and rolled plans.

Remote Research


Are you searching for a vessel (a ship or boat)?

  • Do you have the vessel name, the build date, and where it traveled?
  • Do you know how long the vessel was in operation?
  • Do you know who built or owned the vessel?

Many vessels with the same name operated during a particular time period; therefore, the year built is almost essential. If you do not have this information, the research will require additional time.

Are you searching for a person? 

  • Do you know their port of departure or arrival?
  • Do you know the ship captain’s name? Or the name of the vessel?
  • Have you searched any databases?

Please note that, although we do have a number of passenger lists from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, our Collection focuses primarily on ships.

Are you searching for a place?

  • A harbor, pier, city, destination, or event?
  • Do you have, or know, the time period?  

Providing as much detail as possible will reduce the research time needed.

Low-Resolution Digital Scans
Library and Archives staff can provide low-resolution digital scans upon request. A processing fee of $15 for Museum members and $30 for non-members will be added for scans over 50 pages; the fee is charged to each set of 50 pages.

Non-Members $1.00 per page
Members $0.50 per page

In-Depth Research
Library and Archives staff are available to conduct in-depth research of our collections for patrons. Research requests should be submitted to [email protected] or via the online Request Research Form.

Pre-payment for research is required and will be invoiced via Quickbooks. Research packets include up to 15 low-resolution digital scans. If additional scans are required, additional fees may be assessed. 

Non-Members $60/hour; $30/half-hour
Members $45 per hour; $22.50 per half-hour

Requests are answered in the order received. Although our staff will do their best to answer your questions, please understand that we cannot guarantee we have the information you are seeking. Staff will conduct a maximum of six hours of research per request.

Shipping and Tax
Any applicable shipping cost is based on the delivery address. Virginia residents are subject to tax.

Plans and High-Resolution Reproductions
For inquiries regarding reproductions of our vessel plans or for digital and print reproductions, please contact [email protected]

Response times will vary depending upon the number of requests received, the complexity of your request, and the number of team members available to conduct research. The normal response time for a research package is four to six weeks following receipt of payment.

The normal response time for vessel or plan image research is one to two weeks following receipt of payment.

To facilitate the research process, we prefer electronic or written research requests containing detailed information.

Contact Us

Library and Archives
[email protected]
(757) 591–7782

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