The collection of the Marine Museum of the Great Lakes includes:

  • Archival Materials;
  • Art;
  • Artefacts;
  • Photographs and Library materials,
  • Shipping Company Collections,
  • Shipbuilding and Design Collections
  • The Museum's Historic Site.


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The official geographic limits of the collection are from Montreal to the Lakehead. The one exception to these limits is the library collection, which is International in scope. The Archival collection of the Marine Museum has over 3,500 linear feet of records and over 50,000 ship plans. The Artefact collection is over 4,000 objects and art. The Photograph collection contains over 31,000 images. The Library holdings contain over 12,000 titles.


The museum archives maintains collections documenting Canadian marine heritage on the Great Lakes from the early 19th century through to the present. Material covering all aspects of ships and shipping are represented from the original vessel design, through its building, its working life and its final paying off (or shipwreck).

These various aspects of the marine trades and industry are reflected in collections originating from the draughting offices of naval architects, from the shipyards which built the ships, from the vessels themselves, and from the corporate headquarters of companies operating the fleets. The textual and ships plans are further supplemented by photographs and audio-visual recordings.

Please note that we do not hold corporate personnel records and are therefore often unable to assist with genealogical requests.


Much can be learned from the maritime material culture available to us.

The Museum’s artefact collection includes a broad range of instruments, tools and equipment used by mariners, by shipbuilders and yachtsmen. A brief list of objects includes: navigation instruments, rigging gear, deck gear, steam engines, skiffs and other small craft, shipbuilding and boat building tools.

In addition there are ship models and clothing.

The artefact collection also includes works of art.

The art collection includes naval art of Grant Macdonald, works by Nicholas Henderson, Peter Rindlisbacher and many other professional and amateur and folk marine artists.


The library collection includes:

  • material pertaining to museums and museology,
  • underwater archaeology,
  • British, American and Canadian naval history.

The library subject areas cover all aspects of Canadian shipping and marine heritage: yachting; canal systems; shipping registers, including a near complete run of Lloyds and Department of Transport List of Shipping; ship histories, lists and directories; shipping company fleet histories; steam technology; naval history; navigation; pilot guides; shipwreck directories; transactions of nautical societies; some ethnographic studies; naval architecture; shipbuilding general; shipbuilding of the Great Lakes; shipyard hull lists; yacht design and construction; boat building; ocean liner histories; steamboats; sails and rigging and engineering.

The library also receives serials. Currently over 250 titles are on file. These include trade, scholarly and many special interest titles.


The Photograph collections at the Marine Museum contain images collected or photographed by professional and amateur photographers over many decades.

The collection also includes historic photographs collected by researchers, images taken or commissioned by shipping company advertising departments and images purchased or given away to commemorate special events.

The Museum has also taken photographs or collected images that document ships and shipwrecks, marine industry, ship passages and traditional marine trades.

The Museum is in the process of digitizing many of these images to improve access.

Shipping Company Collections

The Marine Museum has collections from shipping companies that operated on the Great Lakes that include Canada Steamship Lines, Upper Lakes Shipping, the Montreal Transportation Company and the Calvin Company of Garden Island. These collections consist of a broad range of business records such as correspondence, operational records and accounting reports, photographs and marketing material as well as other records created during the course of business.

Shipbuilding and Design Collections

The collections also contain textual and graphic material from German and Milne, the oldest naval architecture firm in Canada (1928 – 1984), including 1200 microfiche of General Arrangement plans. The history of Canadian merchant marine and naval shipbuilding would be incomplete without reference to this collection. We also have over 50,000 ship plans and business records from shipyards, including those at Port Arthur, Collingwood, Midland and Kingston, as well as Davie Shipyard in Lauzon, Quebec. There are also ship plans and business records, logbooks, operating manuals, equipment catalogues, property plans, correspondence, photographs, etc., from other companies including Canadian Vickers, Canadian Dredge and Dock, Canadian Shipbuilding and Engineering, and the Calvin Company.

The Museum's Historic Site

The museum is integral to the site, as it is housed in the old Kingston Shipyard buildings, and includes the original 1890 Pump House with insitu machinery for pumping out the recently restored adjacent dry dock, now a National Historic Site. The ceremonial laying of the key stone of the dry dock was Sir John A. Macdonald's last official act.

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