Museums and Tourism

Underwater cultural heritage is fascinating due to the mystery of its location under water and the historical context. It is often the reminder of a human tragedy – the ending of a journey and a loss of human lives. The discovery of a wreck or ruin allows stepping back into the past and reliving the last moments of the ship and its crew.

In situ presentation - Museums and Archaeological Sites under Water

Once out of the water and exhibited on land, objects from submerged archaeological sites are deprived of their context and lose part of their significance. Therefore, several recent initiatives have undertaken to offer visitors in situ experiences. They include dive trails, submersible tours for non-divers and the construction of underwater museums.

Underwater Museums

Major museums present in original and innovative spaces artefacts extracted from shipwrecks or from ruins. Some of these museums even exhibit shipwrecks in their entirety. Here is a list of the main underwater museums opened to date:

Submerged museums

© Huang, Dejian, Baiheliang Museum Curator/UNESCO
The project of the The Baiheliang Underwater Museum, Fuling, Chongqing Municipality, China

The Baiheliang Museum, Chine

The Baiheliang is an archaeological site in Fuling, China, now submerged under the waters of the newly built Three Gorges Dam. It displays some of the world’s oldest hydrological inscriptions, recording 1,200 years of changes in the water level of the Yangtze River in the north of the Fuling District of the Chongqing Municipality. The stone ridge is 1,600 meters long and 15 meters wide. It reaches 138 meters at its peak height and is submerged under 43 meters waterwith the completion of the Three Gorges Dam Project. The Baiheliang museum offers access to those inscriptions under water.


© Rougerie/UNESCO
The Alexandria Underwater Museum Project

The Alexandria Underwater Museum Project, Egypt

Following the discovery of statues and other precious artefacts in the eastern basin of the port of Alexandria (Egypt), it has been projected to build a submerged museum in the Bay of Alexandria. This museum will display artefacts found in the Ptolemaic Palace of Cleopatra, on the nearby sites of the sunken cities of Canopus and Herakleion and in the famous Pharos Lighthouse. It will include an exhibition space above the sea level and an underwater space corresponding to the major archaeological areas. It will be designed as an “aquarium” with submarines tubes extending the space through the Bay of Alexandria.


Discover the publication Focus on Alexandria (UNESCO)

Half-submerged museums

©UNESCO/U. Guérin
The Guangdong Maritime Silk Road Museum (Nanhai No. 1 Museum), Yangjiang, Guangdong Province, China

The Guangdong Maritime Silk Road Museum (Nanhai No. 1 Museum), Yangjiang, Guangdong Province, China

The wreck of the Nanhai No. 1 was found in the western part of the mouth of the Pearl River (Zhu Jiang), the starting point of China’s . The wreck is in exceptional condition. It is thought to contain 60,000 to 80,000 precious pieces of cargo, especially ceramics. The Nanhai No. 1 Museum features the shipwreck in an aquarium setting characterized by the same water quality, temperature and environment as the spot in which the wreck was discovered. Archaeologists have started to excavate the vessel inside the aquarium, thereby enabling visitors to observe underwater archaeological work in a museum environment. The remains of the ancient vessel are expected to yield critical information on ancient Chinese ship building and navigation technologies

More information on the Museum


Museums displaying the underwater cultural heritage

© U. Guérin/UNESCO
The Mary Rose wreck in Portmouth, UK

  • The Mary Rose Museum, United Kingdom

The Mary Rose Museum of Portsmouth displays the 16th century Tudor navy warship Mary Rose, one of the main vessel of King Henri VIII fleet, as well as the historical context during the one she was used. Built in 1509-1510, it sunk in 1545 while leading a battle against France. Discovered in 1971, the wreck was salvaged in 1982 and is now displayed in the Museum.

For more information, visit the website of the Museum


© WikiCommons, UNESCO.
Shipwreck of the Vasa, Sweden - Stern and quarterdeck

  • The Vasa Museum, Sweden

The Vasa Museum presents the Vasa, a warship built in the 17th century which was, at the time of launching, the most powerful boat ever built. It sank in 1628. The shipwreck was extracted from water in 1961 and is now exhibited in the most visited museum of Scandinavia.

For more information, visit the website of the Museum.



© Wikicommons
The shipwreck of the Skuldelev II, Viking ships Museum, Roskilde, Danmark

  • The Viking Ship Museum, Roskilde, Danemark

The Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde is focused on ships, seafaring and boatbuilding culture in ancient and medieval times. The Viking Ship Hall is designed as a large showcase to display the five Viking ships found at Skuldelev. Besides the five original ships the hall also houses special temporary exhibitions, copies of a trading vessel and of a warship equipped with barrels, trading goods and weapons.
At the boat yard, the boat building tradition and culture of the Viking age are illustrated through working boat builders and exhibitions showing the historical background.

On the Museum Island craftsmen work in an archaeological workshop at, where ship finds from throughout Denmark are measured and recorded, and courses of maritime archaeology are held in summer season. 

For more information, visit the website of the Museum.

  • The Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archeology, Turkey

 This museum is one of the most popular tourist attractions of Turkey. It displays the archaeological remains of five antique ships, amphora, coins and other cargo elements.

For more information, visit the website of the Museum.

Discover Underwater Cultural Heritage in situ

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