The National Maritime Museum is devoted to the maritime history of the Mediterranean basin, the Red Sea and the Nile, and its collection presents 5,000 years of maritime history. The Museum collection came into being in 1953 as the private collection of its founder and first director, the late Aryeh Ben-Eli. The Museum was originally housed on one floor of the Sailors' Home in Haifa; in 1972, it moved to its current premises at 198 Allenby Road. The building was constructed on land belonging to the Ministry of Defense, and its creation was made possible throuogh the generosity of the Jack and Michael Morrison Foundation, London, the Haifa Municipality and additional donations from Friends of the Museum in Israel and abroad. It now belongs to the Haifa Museums Corporation.
The building's entrance floor contains the temporary exhibition galleries, the Yitzhak Rokach Auditorium, the John Cohen Library, offices and research rooms. The upper and lower exhibition floors are dedicated to the Museum's permanent exhibitions.
The Museum's permanent exhibition is chronologically ordered, and its various sections present man's connection to the sea at different historical moments. The display is dedicated to the following subjects: maritime archeology; maritime art; maritime mythology; ancient anchors; Greco-Roman coins; fish and dolphins; scientific apparatuses (the Landau Family Collection); storage jars for maritime trade (the Collection in Memory of David Kenneth); the Mediterranean: its ports and islands - Phoenician ports and ports in the ancient land of Israel; cartography and graphics (the Carl and Lee Handler Collection); shipping innovations; maritime battles; and maritime construction. The most prominent objects in the display are ship models; maritime archeological artifacts: pottery, coins and seals; and a large collection of ancient maps and engravings that is divided among the various sections. In addition to its permanent exhibitions, the Museum also features temporary exhibitions from its collections, and exhibitions of works by local and international artists on maritime themes.
The Museum is visited by groups of schoolchildren accompanied by instructors from the Centre for Museum Education, by tourists, and by students and researchers who also use the Museum library. Receptions, cultural events, and conferences are held in the auditorium.