The museum grew out of the FIMI (Falmouth International Maritime Initiative) partnership which was created in 1992 and was the result of collaboration between the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich and the former Cornwall Maritime Museum in Falmouth. It opened in February 2003. It is an independent charitable trust and, unlike other national museums, receives no direct government support. Its mission is to promote an understanding of boats and their place in people's lives, and of the maritime heritage of Cornwall. It does this by presenting the story of the sea, boats and the maritime history of Cornwall.
Three galleries are devoted to the maritime history of Cornwall. These cover topics such as Cornish fishing, trading, boatbuilding, wrecks and emigration. The Falmouth gallery also tells the story of: The Packet ships which operated out of Falmouth and which took the mails to the growing empire from 1668 until 1851; The life of Falmouth in the late 19th century when "to Falmouth for Orders" was a familiar instruction to ships' captains and the harbour was filled with vessels returning to Europe from around the world; and The 20th century when Falmouth was a jumping off point for D-Day and the first and last port of call for sailors like Robin Knox-Johnston, the first man to sail solo around the world, and Ellen MacArthur who broke the solo round the world sailing record having left from, and returned to the museum.
The Museum manages the National Small Boat Collection, which came from the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, in addition to its own collection of Cornish and other boats. Famous boats on show in its collection include: Waterlily, a Thames steam boat built by Thornycrofts in 1866; Fricka, a gentleman's day sailor built by William Fife; Champions like the Ventnor planing hydrofoil; the Flying Dutchman Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious (Superdocious for short) in which Rodney Pattisson won a gold medal at the Mexico Olympics; Rita, the Finn in which Ben Ainslie won Olympic gold medals in 2004, 2008, and 2012; and "Defender II"; Thunder and Lightning, the International 14 which was the first boat to use a trapeze competitively; Early examples of popular sailing dinghies like Mirror No.1, Firefly No.1 and Dart No. 1; Curlew, the Falmouth Quay Punt in which Tim and Pauline Carr sailed to the Antarctic; and Wanderer-W48, a Wayfarer (dinghy), in which Frank Dye sailed to Iceland and to Norway from Scotland (surviving four capsizes and a broken mast during a Force 9 storm). The museum is the country's premier museum for boats and maintains a national register of small boats (under 33-foot) and invites owners of historic craft to register them.
The Main Hall – containing the Survival Zone; The Hold – with changing bi-annual exhibitions; Look-out – with views over Falmouth harbour; The Quarterdeck – used for temporary exhibitions; Nav Station – Navigation and weather; Boat building and its history; Tidal Zone – with underwater views of Falmouth harbour; Waterfront – the small indoor lake, with fans creating a gust for radio-controlled model yachts; Pontoon – with a changing display of boats on the water; Maritime Cornwall: Falmouth Gallery, Cornwall and the Sea and the Cornish Quayside. The Museum is fully accessible to wheelchair users with: level access to the entrance lift and ramp access available to all floors including the Tower and Tidal galleries. 1st and 2nd floor wheelchair accessible toilets. "Two of us are in wheelchairs and we found the museum to be the best accessible site in Cornwall." Dogs are not permitted inside the Museum, however they do welcome visitors with Guide Dogs and Hearing Dogs for the Deaf. A dog ‘lounge’ is available outside the Museum in a sheltered and protected location near the entrance with a dog bed, lead tie up and water bowl. Many galleries include interactive exhibits and objects on open display, as well as music and oral history, which is of benefit to those with sensory impairment. They are currently developing an audio guide with the RNIB.
Location : Discovery Quay, Falmouth, Cornwall TR11 3QY
Transport: Falmouth (National Rail). Bus Routes : Bus Timetable. Ferry : From Truro.
Opening Times : Daily 10:00 to 17:00.
Tickets : Adults £12.50; Child £5.00; Carer Free
Tel: 01326 313388