The Museum owes its existence to the efforts of late Sir Mohamed Yusuf; the Founder of the Institution. It initially served as an institutional museum. Its origin was in a small place where tools of the trade were displayed as motivational artefacts. The Marine School children were given practice in carpentry work and repairs of sails etc. The year was 1912. It is housed in the 19th century residence of late Haji Ismail who is reputed to have acquired it from one of the members of the famous Wadia family, the Master Ship Builders of Bombay. It was originally the residence of Mr Bomanjee Hormusjee Wadia and is definitely the most beautiful heritage building in the Campus with its omnipresent anchor motif. The beam heads solid and heavy were probably brought in by country craft, dhows and fishing trawlers as the road was non-existent then.
The ground floor galleries are devoted to the History of Indian Shipping from the earliest days.
The Museum has been organised to display the rich maritime heritage of India dating back to over 4000 years through several pictorial exhibits in the galleries devoted to Pre Mauryan, Andhra, Kushana, Chola, Pre Moghul, Moghul, Maratha and British periods.
Amongst its quaint displays is an 1835 Navigation Chart of the Arabian Coast and the Red Sea drawn by an inhabitant of Kutch on a homespun cloth and used by the pilots and the navigators of yesteryears. Paintings of some important early Ships – “S. S. Hindostan” leaving the Port of Southampton to open the Indian “Mail Service”, Paddle Steamer 'Lord William Bentinck” which helped establish steam traffic in the Ganges, and the private vessel of the Nawab of Oudh' the first Indian to install a steam engine in his boat.
The First Floor Galleries highlights the saga of the Bombay Steam Navigation Company established by the ancestors of the Founder and its subsequent merger with Scindia Steam Navigation Company in 1919.The first floor galleries also highlights evolution of Training Ship Rahaman. The second floor contains memorabilia of the Yusuf family, whose pioneering efforts have resulted not only in the first Indian owned Shipping Company, on the west coast of India but also the first Marine School and Marine Museum in India.
One of the fascinating displays is that of Bombay Steam Navigation Company's S S Vaitarna which sank during its maiden voyage in 1885 – a tragedy that compares with but precedes sinking of Titanic by almost 24 years. A replica of HMS Minden on whose deck Francis Key composed the “Star Spangled Banner” - the National anthem of USA, is also on display. There are exhibits portraying our National leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Rabindra Nath Tagore and their association with the Country's maritime Industry.
Sir Mohamed Yusuf's personal collection of artefacts and correspondence dating back to early Nineteenth Century such as the correspondence renouncing his Knighthood, is on display on the second floor .
It must be said to the credit of Late Mr A R A Yusuf, father of the present Chairman that the Museum was substantially reorganised with artefacts painstakingly collected by the Yusuf family over the years Under the guidance of famous curator Dr Sadashiv Gorakshakar, the then Director of erstwhile Prince of Wales Museum now known as Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya.
The Museum received a grant from the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Environment Society for executing a project on 'Ecology in Nhava through Marine Museum Nhava'. The Project included installation of a “Reed bed” System of Waste water management, redesigning the Ecology Gallery of the Museum, remodelling the existing boat shed and arranging boat displays. Consequently digitally printed large format panels on mangrove eco system have been displayed in the Museum, the displays of shells and conches has been improved, and the boat shed now forms part of the Museum displays. The Marine ecology gallery on the ground floor is a treasure trove of information. The visitors are fascinated to see water samples from over 100 water bodies around the world.
Two booklets and a well-illustrated brochure on mangroves are available for sale at discounted prices for the School children and the general Public.
Countless articles in various Newspapers and magazines have extolled the efforts of the Foundation to immortalise India’s maritime heritage.
“Navi Mumbai TV” have covered the Museum in great detail. Their video films on Museum could be accessed at the following Links:-