ART THAT SAILS
At the Channel Islands Maritime Museum, you will feel transformed as you step into a new world. Our permanent collection will completely revamp your knowledge of the maritime world in ways you never thought possible. Since its launch in 1991, the Museum has been dedicated to enriching the lives of all who visit.
For regular guests, we try to keep things interesting by hosting exciting events and interesting exhibitions. We offer discounts for our partners, as well as for children, senior citizens, students, and active duty military. We hope you will come to our amazing facilities soon, we promise you will learn something new!
The Museum was the culmination of a shared vision by Harry Nelson, a collector of marine art and a Channel Islands Harbor businessman, and by Bud Smith, the major developer of Fisherman’s Wharf, both of whom desired to see a cultural asset at the Harbor. Two years before the museum opened in 1991, Harry Nelson formed a Board of Trustees and became its Chairman. Harry was an attorney by profession, but became interested in marinas and eventually established Almar Marinas, with two locations in Ventura County along with others in California, Mexico, and Hawaii. Harry's love and appreciation of maritime art began when he and his wife, Joyce, on a trip to Europe in the 1960s, purchased two small paintings. In the following years, the collection grew into one of the finest privately owned maritime-themed collections in the world.
The Museum began as the Ventura County Maritime Museum in 1990 at Fisherman’s Wharf at Channel Islands Boulevard and Victoria Avenue in Oxnard. Before passing away in 2002, Harry established the Nelson Maritime Arts Foundation to ensure continued support of the Museum. The museum remained in Fisherman's Wharf until 2012 when it moved to a new location across the Channel and was renamed the Channel Islands Maritime Museum.
The Museum has an extensive and world-class maritime art collection, featuring 17th-century Dutch and Flemish masters such as Willem van de Velde and Bonaventura Peeters, 18th-century British artists Edward Cooke and Robert Salmon, as well as noted contemporary artists John Stobart, David Thimgan, and Thomas Hoyne. Our ship models trace more than 3000 years of maritime history, from ancient Egyptian reed boats and tomols used by the Chumash people to the modern-day car carriers of Port Hueneme. The Museum houses the second-largest collection of antique Prisoner of War sailing ship models on display in the United States in addition to the entire life’s work of Edward F. Marple, one of America’s foremost ship model builders. Other exhibits include whaling, sailor’s arts, navigational instruments, and the history of the Channel Island Harbor. Special topical and featured guest artist exhibitions are presented on an ongoing basis.
Museum Chairman Harry Nelson speaking at the 1991 Opening of the Channel Islands Maritime Museum at Channel Islands Harbor in Oxnard, CA.
Shared knowledge constructed around art and history enriches our diverse community, helping all to thrive and engage in our globalizing society.
Given the power imbalances at work in the world, though, we acknowledge that neutrality is impossible when it comes to preserving and presenting our shared maritime history.
The Channel Islands Maritime Museum is thus committed to actively promoting diversity,
equity, inclusion, and accessibility through our collection, programs, events, and practices.
We recognize that our community consists of people of various races, ethnicities, sexes, genders,
ages, languages, beliefs, and abilities, and we proudly exist to serve them all.