Maritime History Archive, Memorial University of Newfoundland

Identity area



Authorized form of name

Maritime History Archive, Memorial University of Newfoundland

Parallel form(s) of name

    Other form(s) of name

    • MHA, Maritime History Group, MHG


    • University

    Contact area

    Heather Wareham Primary contact



    Street address


    St. John's


    Newfoundland and Labrador

    Country name


    Postal code

    A1C 5S7







    Henrietta Harvey Building
    Memorial University

    Description area


    Memorial University of Newfoundland has made significant contributions to the history of Newfoundland and Labrador through an active archival presence spanning over forty years. Its archival collections are among the largest in the country, and serve as a focal point for original research on Newfoundland topics. As the University expanded throughout the 1960s, increasing interest in Newfoundland history, society and culture resulted in a greater concentration of “Newfoundland content” in the curriculum. Archival activity grew accordingly as faculty members, departments and research centers acquired and processed archival material.

    The Maritime History Archive’s predecessor, the Maritime History Group (MHG), was established in 1971 with a mandate to acquire documents related to maritime history and to conduct research into the history of sea based societies. Operating under the auspices of the Department of History, the ‘Group’ consisted of a chairman, the head of the Department of History, appointed members from the Department of History, and an elected executive secretary / financial officer.

    The MHG began to acquire archival material and in 1976 received a large Canada Council grant to study the history of shipping in Atlantic Canada. Over the seven year life span of that project the MHG expanded its archival holdings to 16,000 linear feet, and increased the archival staff from 2 to 10. The Group hosted annual conferences, attracting internationally recognized scholars in the fields of maritime history, economics, geography and other related disciplines. Researchers from Europe and elsewhere visited, laying a solid foundation for the international reputation the archive now holds.

    In 1984, following the untimely death of the Group’s chairperson, Dr. Keith Matthews, the Dean of Arts instigated an external review which resulted in the dissolution of the MHG. Under a new administrative structure, the archival functions of the MHG were to be carried on by the newly formed Maritime History Archive (MHA). The archivist of the MHA would report to a board of directors and directly to the Dean of Arts.

    The MHA currently holds 25,000 linear feet of records, including Newfoundland business records, 22,000 photographs, maps, plans and hydrographic charts, newspapers and periodicals, Newfoundland business records and more than 55,000 boxes of crew agreements.

    Geographical and cultural context

    Mandates/Sources of authority

    The Maritime History Archive exists to:

    1. Collect and preserve archival material pertaining to merchant shipping in the North Atlantic world, national and international related commerce, and Newfoundland fisheries, commerce and settlement.

    2. Provide appropriate conditions for the storage, protection and preservation of these archival materials.

    3. Process these materials according to the accepted archival standards for appraisal, selection, arrangement and description.

    4. Make the documents accessible to the University community, external researchers, and the general public through a commitment to regular and competent public service.

    5. Provide educational, outreach programming whenever possible to increase public awareness and promote utilization of the Archive as a community resource.

    6. Maintain and enhance the archive’s position as a University based centre of excellence for the study of maritime history and keeper of our maritime heritage.

    Administrative structure

    The Archivist reports directly to the Dean of Arts and to a board of directors, Memorial University.

    Records management and collecting policies

    The MHA collects archival material pertaining to merchant shipping in the North Atlantic world, national and international related commerce, and Newfoundland fisheries, commerce and settlement.

    A small reference library is also available and is used as a resource for research services.

    Acceptance of material from donors is subject to the conditions as outlined on the archive’s donor agreement.


    The Maritime History Archive is housed in the basement of the Henrietta Harvey Building (also known as the Math Building) on the main campus of Memorial University.

    The building is one of the first four buildings built on the new campus of Memorial University on Elizabeth Avenue in St. John’s and was officially opened in the fall of 1961. It then housed the university library. In 1970 MUN named the building the Henrietta Harvey Library to honour the memory of Henrietta Harvey, a munificent benefactress of the university and the wife of John Harvey, MLC and resident of St. John’s. After the construction of the new library in the 1980s the Henrietta Harvey Building became home to the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, the Department of Computing and Communications and the Maritime History Archive.


    The Maritime History Archive collects archival material pertaining to merchant shipping in the North Atlantic world, national and international related commerce, and Newfoundland fisheries, commerce and settlement. This includes crew agreements of British Empire vessels, 1863-1976; maps, plans and hydrographic charts; photographs; Newfoundland business records; genealogical material including English and Irish Parish Registers and the Dr. Keith Matthews Name Files; student research papers.

    Finding aids, guides and publications

    The MHA maintains online catalogues for manuscripts and photographs, accessible through the archive’s web page at

    Finding Aids are available at

    Two searchable databases on the MHA’s website ( provide valuable information on seafarers: over 40,000 Newfoundland seafarers can be found in the Newfoundland and Labrador Crew List Database, 1864-1942, while the 1881 Crew Lists Database contains the names of tens of thousands of seafarers on British Empire vessels in that year.

    The MHA publishes databases and creates virtual exhibits from large research projects undertaken in-house. Two downloadable databases have been published: Ships and Seafarers of Atlantic Canada contains data on 44,000 vessels and the people who sailed them, covering the years 1787 to 1936; and Births, Deaths and Marriages in Newfoundland Newspapers, 1810-1890, was created from data collected by Gert Crosbie. It contains more than 40,000 entries for births, deaths and marriages transcribed from 43 Newfoundland newspapers.

    Access area

    Opening times

    The Maritime History Archive is open to the public from 9:00 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., Monday to Friday (excluding holidays). Inquiries can be made by telephone, fax, email or visiting the Archive. No material may be removed or borrowed from the Archive.

    Access conditions and requirements

    Researchers will be asked to complete a registration form and to describe the nature of their research.

    The Archive’s holdings are available to researchers; however some records may be covered by copyright restrictions and /or privacy restrictions.


    Services area

    Research services

    The Archive offers services that include searching records, providing reports and copying documents. A schedule of fees and charges for all services is available at and estimates are provided on request.

    Patrons conducting their own research at the Archive are required to pay only for photocopies.

    Reproduction services

    Photocopying and scanning services are available. A schedule of fees and charges for all services is available at and estimates are provided on request.

    When copyright regulations apply to material it is the responsibility of the user to obtain permission from the copyright holder to reproduce the material in any form.

    Public areas

    Control area

    Description identifier

    Institution identifier

    Rules and/or conventions used



    Level of detail


    Dates of creation, revision and deletion

    Created - ?
    Revised - April 9, 2013


    • English



      Maintenance notes

      Access points

      Access Points