The foundation of a Museum of the Greek Mercantile Marine was conceived by a small group of Coast Guard officers in 1982, when the then Minister of Culture Melina Mercouri had the idea to gather renown artists and art critics from countries all over the Mediterranean, for a few days on the island of Hydra, to attend a conference “The Mediterranean Sea Yesterday and Today”.
The exhibits of the conference were transferred for preservation to Piraeus and specifically to the Coast Guard Academy. The Museum of the Mercantile Marine originally acquired legal status in 1991 and operated inside the Academy, to be later converted to the Institute of Hellenic Maritime History.
The purpose of the Institute is the study of the Greek naval history, customs and traditions, the study of the Greek Merchant Marine through the ages, as well as the collection and the preservation of exhibits of historic interest.
Inside the museum of the Institute, the visitor is guided through the evolution of Greek Shipping with the exhibits being divided into distinct chronological sections including: the Paleolithic – Neolithic Era, the Classic Era, the Byzantine Period, the Pre-Revolutionary Period – the Greek War of Independence, the Post-Revolutionary Period and the Greek Merchant Marine activity during WWI and WWII.
There is also a library open to the public, which containσ a rich collection of rare Greek and foreign publications. Moreover, the Institute’s walls are adorned with the paintings of some of the very best Greek seascape painters.
Since 2007, the Institute of Hellenic Maritime History has been housed in a building in the heart of colourful, joyful Pasalimani, at 154, Grigoriou Lambraki street. This very building had once been hosting the historic theatre “Pallas” until, later on, it was used as the examination venue for Greek seamen as well as the ceremonial venue for the Ministry of Mercantile Marine.