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About this site

Why Port Cities? 

From the earliest times people have learned to exploit the seas and rivers of Britain. The latter have played a central role in the movement of people, goods and ideas and have acted as crucial channels of communication with the outside world. Maritime settlements were founded on these coasts and rivers and over time Port Cities developed. Throughout the centuries they have always been at the heart of Britain’s commerce and industry.


Port Cities London

A Picnic on the Foreshore at Greenwich. Part of Greenwich Local History Library Collection.
View full size imageFamilies on Greenwich Beach in the 1930s. © NMM

This site contains an online digitised collection resource of over 5,000 items, brought to you by the National Maritime Museum, and local London libraries and archives who have worked together to open up their collections.  Port Cities London therefore contains unique collection items that have never been seen by the public until now!




‘Discover the past, explore the present’

Port Cities London seeks to uncover the ‘stories’ behind these unique maritime collections.
St Albans Floated out at Deptford, 1747
View full size imageHMS St. Albans floated out at Deptford in 1747. © NMM

The riverside communities of Maritime London were vibrant places in which to live. The port and river provided employment for many people in dockyards, warehouses, factories, shipyards and wharves. As a global port and the centre of the British Empire and Commonwealth, London has always attracted people from across the world. Many came to London to work in the port and its associated industries, some were seeking refuge and a better life for themselves and their families. Some merely passed through the port, whilst others stayed and made their home in the capital. The result of this influx can be seen around us today.

A series of local community outreach initiatives have provided another level of understanding to our ‘maritime stories’.  The collections have been used to inspire and provoke local communities in Museum led workshops.  This has uncovered maritime stories of personal experiences to those people living in and around the port.  Port Cities London seeks to reflect the diversity of life in the port.  The recent community work recording the memories of Dockland’s deaf community and the impressions of immigrant populations is only the start of many personal and community stories to come. 


Port Cities - The Future

The Port Cities project hopes to attract other cultural partners who will assist in opening up access to other archives and collections. Over time, this will present a truly national picture of our Port Cities and their rich maritime heritage.



Background to the Port Cities Project

The UK Port Cities Partners are a group of museums, archives and libraries who have come together across the country to open up their unique and varied collections and to present these via the internet.  The Port Cities websites draw on these digitised materials to engage people in the collections and to unearth the stories of people, places and events that form part of our maritime heritage.

The UK Port Cities Partners include: 

The PortCities UK portal will be available in early summer 2003.


New Opportunity Fund

The New Opportunities Fund distributes National Lottery money to health, education and environment projects across Britain with a particular focus on disadvantage and improving quality of life. Grant awards from the New Opportunities Fund's £50 million nof-digitise programme were announced in 2001. The programme is enabling information that supports lifelong learning to be put into digitised form. The nof-digitise grant awardees are developing learning materials covering a wide range of topics including arts, science, history, geography, citizenship and community information for Internet access. Port Cities London can be accessed through the New Opportunities Fund portal - EnrichUK.  This is due to launch on 12 March 2003 and contains over 150 culturally rich websites that form part of this initiative.

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