Collections Frequently Asked Questions

Ship's wheel (SAFR 3389)
Ship's wheel (SAFR 3389)

NPS photo


Who may use the collections? Where can I use them?
The Maritime Research Center is open to park staff and all members of the public. Archival collections (photos, original documents, etc.) are available to Park staff and researchers for use in the Research Center with valid photo identification by appointment only. Walk-in requests for archival collections access will not be honored. Access to the Park's stored museum artifact and stored small craft collection is currently unavailable as we move these collections to a new facility. Please contact the Reference Librarian to make an appointment, and refer to our Access Policy and Rules Governing Use for a full list of rules for the Research Center.


Where is the Maritime Research Center located?
Please see our Plan Your Research Visit page for our location and directions.

What are the Maritime Research Center hours?

Please see Plan Your Research Visit for hours and other information to help plan your visit.


How can I look up a publication in the catalog?
Published items (books, periodicals, etc.) are listed in the Park's Keys Catalog; see Collections Catalogs & Finding Aids for more information.

How do I find archival and object collections?

See Collections Catalogs & Finding Aids for links to the archival, object, and library publications catalogs. For more information on finding photographs, please contact our Research Center.

May I browse or retrieve materials myself?

Only the public reference materials in the Research Center are available for self-service. The collections stacks are closed to everyone except authorized staff. Paging of materials is handled by the Park's Maritime Research Center staff. Some materials are located in offsite storage, and paging times vary.


Can I check out materials from the Maritime Research Center?
Full borrowing privileges are extended to NPS staff only; limited privileges are extended to volunteers, interns, and Park Association staff. Most Stack materials can be borrowed through interlibrary loan service, for in-library use in your local library. Rare library materials, archival materials, and audio-visual collections are not available through interlibrary loan, and must be used in the Maritime Research Center.

Is help available to researchers?

Reference assistance about the collections with limited research is available. Staff are unable to undertake lengthy research investigations.


What should I expect when using the Maritime Research Center?
Please refer to our Access Policy and Rules Governing Use for a full list of rules for the Maritime Research Center.


Are there restrictions on what sort of items I can bring into the Maritime Research Center?
Yes; please refer to our Access Policy and Rules Governing Use for a full list of rules for the Maritime Research Center. Lockers are available for storage of personal property.


Does the Maritime Research Center provide computer facilities for word processing and other applications? Is wifi available?
While researchers may bring laptops, tablets, and silent smart phones into the reading room, the Maritime Research Center does not provide computers for word processing or other software applications. Computer workstations in the Maritime Research Center are for collections catalog access and research only. Wifi is available.

How can I get copies of materials?

Requests for reproductions from library and archival collections may be available, depending on the item's condition. Please refer to the Park's Duplication Services for information on reproductions and pricing; reproductions are provided on a cost recovery charge-back basis in accordance with 43 U.S. Code 1460 and National Park Service (NPS) policy. Fees recovered from the delivery of reproductions are used to support the use and preservation of the Park's collections. All copies are produced by Park staff only. Payment is accepted with a credit card or checking account via our site, and must be received in advance before an order can be processed.


How do I get permission to publish an image from the collection?
Please see our Notice of Intent to Publish or Use form.


Do you have ship's passenger lists, or information on life on the ships?
We have some passenger lists; if you know the name of the ship, and the date of the voyage, you can contact us to see if we have any resources on those passengers. (The majority of passenger lists for arrivals on the West Coast are at other institutions--see our Genealogy Research page for more information). We also have material describing life on board ships--contact us for recommendations of first-person accounts of sailors' seafaring lives, immigrant's experiences, and works on typical conditions aboard ships.


My relative was a sailor--can you help me find information on him or her? My relative served on a Navy ship--can you help me?
If you contact us with the name of the ship on which they served, we may be able to locate resources such as a picture of the vessel; we have some information on crews as well. We also have a fairly large collection of cruise books, the "year book" or "memory book" of a crew's voyage. See Genealogy Research at SF Maritime NHP for more information on our resources and those in other collections.


I'm not sure of the name of the ship my relative came here or served on--can you help me?
Please see Genealogy Research at SF Maritime NHP for pointers to many sources, or contact us for assistance.


My relative worked in a shipyard--can you help me find information on him or her?
We hold extensive collections relating to West Coast shipyards; more information is available on our Genealogy research at SF Maritime NHP page or by contacting us.


Can I volunteer at the Maritime Research Center? Do you have internships?
Contact us in the Research Center to learn more about volunteer, intership and/or practicum opportunities in the Collections Dept., or read more about the Park's Volunteer Program for information on other opportunities in the Park, including Cultural Resources.


How can I donate library material to the Park's Maritime Research Center?
Please contact us for information concerning donations of library materials (e.g., books and periodicals).


How can I donate material to the archives or museum collection?
The Park collects and preserves materials in all formats that document the maritime heritage of the Pacific Coast. Please see our detailed information on donating archives or objects to our collections. Want to learn more about donating archives in general? See the Society of American Archivists' Donating Your Personal or Family Papers to a Repository.


What are my books, photos, etc., worth? How can I care for my personal collections?

The Park staff can not provide this information on value nor provide such advice about personal collections; please see Conservation/Preservation Information for the General Public at the Conservation Online website for links to resources and information.

Last updated: April 26, 2023

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