The Royal Naval Museum is planning to create an online museum of the Royal Navy in the 20th century. Courtesy Royal Naval Museum.
With the 200th anniversary of Trafalgar approaching, the nation’s attention is inevitably turning back to the age of the sail. But at the Royal Naval Museum (RNM) in Portsmouth, plans are in place to celebrate our more recent maritime past.
Thanks to a £664,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the RNM is creating an online museum that traces the history of the Royal Navy during the 20th century.
Entitled Sea Your History, the new website will take visitors on a tour through thousands of photos, recorded personal reminiscences and digitised artefacts.
"The 20th century saw intense conflict and profound technological and social change," says Matthew Sheldon, Head of Research Collections at the museum. "Throughout it, the Royal Navy was at the centre of military strategy and national life – just think of the Battle of the Atlantic or the Falklands War."
The HLF grant will enable the museum to take on eight new members of staff who will put the project together over the next three years. They’ll be working to provide online access to around 15,000 items from the RNM collection, a large proportion of which have never been on public display.
The Royal Naval Museum was founded in 1972 and tells the story of the Navy's surface ships and the men and women who have served in them. Courtesy Royal Naval Museum.
Digitised photographs, extracts from letters and diaries, interviews with veterans and artefacts will be used to relay personal experiences of life in the service during times of war and peace. But the operational side of the Navy will also be explored with a look at how technology has changed and ship design altered.
Arranged into virtual exhibitions, there will be a strong educational element to the site with resources developed in conjunction with teachers and students.
Ensuring complete coverage, the RNM is planning to collaborate with a number of related institutions. As well as Portsmouth Royal Dockyard Trust, the likes of the Royal Navy Submarine Museum in Gosport, the Royal Marines Museum in Southsea and the Fleet Air Arm Museum in Somerset will be involved.
"Maritime heritage has shaped the history of the UK and it’s great to see a project that focuses on events and achievements in the 20th century, as well as partnering with other naval museums to ensure the widest spread of information," added Tessa Hilder, regional manager for the HLF South East.
"In a year that we’re celebrating 200 years of maritime history, this will ensure that our modern Sea History is never forgotten and can be enjoyed by everyone."