The museum contains a wealth of artifacts and information to excite and inform the visitor, the collections being organised into four main areas:
The Social History Collection which is located in the “Pioneer Room” includes artifacts utilised in every-day life and industry of this Port town. A small cinema shows films relating to local history and is a place to relax for a while. A collection of over 60 local oral histories is held in our archives and a complete catalogue can be accessed on the web-page. Copies of CDs of individual histories can be purchased by genuine researchers.
The Maritime Collection which is located within the main gallery gives an insight into items used in the former dockyards operated by the Union Steamship Coy Ltd (USSCo), Morgan & Cable and Stevenson & Cook Ltd. Navigation instruments, ship models and a wide collection of maritime related memorabilia. The Port Otago Gallery on the mezzanine floor contains displays relating to local 19th century military and naval defender including the Deborah Bay Torpedo Boat Corps, Port Charlmers Navals and items relating to the two World Wars.
The Port Chalmers connection to Antarctic exploration from the French explorer, Dumont dÚrville in 1840, to Scott (1901 & 1910), Shackelton (1908), Byrd (1926 & 1935), The Trans Antarctic Experdition (1957 – 58) and Operation Deep Freeze in the 1950s and 60s and is another part of the collection.
The Boat Shed , which is located at the back of the main gallery, houses large scale exhibits including a deck-cabin from the USSCo cargo ship Flora (the Sea Hawk) , a late 19th century seine fishing-boat, a plywood single-scull skiff, the Alvyna, an X Class clinker timber yacht and many other items relating to the fishing industry, local boat building and water sports. There is a small outdoor exhibition area. A gallery at the rear of the Boat Shed gives visitors extensive views out and over the container port and its operations.
The Photographic Collection spans the arrival of early settlers to present-day residents and portside life. This collection includes considerable material from the former Otago Harbour Board and is enhanced by the work of the early photographer, David de Maus, a former Mayor of the Borough of Port Chalmers, who recorded a unique view of he past. The copies of photographs can be purchased.
The Painting Collection allows for a personal record of views and experiences that reflect the long tradition of artists travelling through and settling in the area. Many of these original works are on permanent display.