Kotor is a spectacular walled town , designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, at the head of the Boka Kotorska gulf, a fjord-like bay off the southern Adriatic Sea. It contains many fine medieval and Renaissance buildings, although an earthquake in 1979 caused severe damage. In spite of many political changes, trade flourished in the port of Kotor for many centuries and many of the town’s citizens made their living from the sea. Three hundred ships worked from the port in the 18th century, although the introduction of steamships in the late 19th century brought a decline in Kotor’s trade.
The museum originated about 1880 as the collection of the Boka Marine Fraternity, and was opened to the public in 1900. In 1938 it moved to the early 18th century Baroque palace of the Grgurina family where it still remains. Displays include a collection of uniforms of the admirals of the fraternity, a copy of the earliest document relating to shipping at Kotor which dates from 1171 and a range of bronze panels depicting the most significant events in the history of Kotor. One section is concerned with maritime education, especially the role of training ships, and another is devoted to the merchant navy of former Yugoslavia, which had a significant presence in Kotor. As in other maritime museums there are substantial collections of ship models and historic photographs.