Advocating for the Maritime Heritage Community

National Maritime Alliance

Maritime commerce was crucial to the founding and early prosperity of the United States. Sailing ships, aids to navigation, waterside facilities, canals, and protection provided by the US Navy were all instrumental in the rapid growth of the nation.

Sailing ships gave way to steam vessels, and later container ships, and transportation adapted to a network of planes, trains and trucks. As the earlier nautical way of life diminished, so did many traditional skills, historic vessels, and waterfront buildings.

In the summer of 1987, a new organization was proposed: an alliance of all who value the traditions of American seafaring, an alliance of those who would work together for the common good.  Formally organized in 1988, the National Maritime Alliance—a non-profit organization with membership available to all—represents nearly 1,000 organizations and individuals and is chaired by National Maritime Historical Society trustee and professor emeritus at East Carolina University Dr. Timothy J. Runyan.

Star Of India LR

The Maritime Museum Association of San Diego was awarded a National Maritime Heritage Grant for the preservation of the 1863 iron-hulled sailing ship Star of India.

National Maritime Alliance Logo 300x300The Alliance comprises a diverse group including maritime museums, historic ships, lighthouses, canals, boatyards, boatbuilding and sailing schools, tall ships for sail training, historic naval ships, historic preservation groups, marine unions and businesses, and individuals. These organizations and persons all celebrate aspects of a common tradition. Together, they are the custodians of a maritime heritage that is as diverse as America itself.


Maritime Heritage Conferences

In order to bring together all elements of the maritime heritage community and to discuss topics of common interest, the National Maritime Alliance organizes Maritime Heritage Conferences, held every three or four years and typically attended by representatives from hundreds of organizations, including Tall Ships America, the National Maritime Historical Society, American Lighthouse Council, the Council of American Maritime Museums, Historic Naval Ships Association, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the US Coast Guard, the Naval Historical Foundation, Naval History and Heritage Command, the North American Society for Oceanic History, the Nautical Research Guild, the US Lighthouse Society, the National Lighthouse Foundation, the Steamship Historical Society of America, the National Association of Black Scuba Divers, Diving with a Purpose, the Association for Great Lakes Maritime History, and many others.

Critical Funding for Maritime Heritage Organizations

The National Maritime Alliance represents a broad range of institutions. It also represents, indirectly, thousands upon thousands of individuals in every corner of the United States who are members and supporters of these institutions. This puts the Alliance in the unique position of having a significant measure of influence—a measure that could not be matched by its members acting individually—as it works to bring about changes in public policy that will enhance individual and collective efforts.  As such, the Alliance is committed to helping this country’s maritime artifacts, projects, and programs that have traditionally been underfunded. It coordinated a national effort, resulting in the passage of federal legislation for assistance to the maritime heritage field. The National Maritime Heritage Act of 1994 is designed to provide an ongoing national competitive grants program for worthy maritime projects.  Advocacy efforts have secured millions of dollars in funding for the program—the Archaeologyonly federal grant program directed to the maritime heritage community.

From 1998 to date, the National Maritime Heritage Grants Program has yielded nearly $12 million in awards to nearly 200 organizations. Among grant recipients, the National Maritime Historical Society was awarded a $50,000 grant for the indexing, digitizing, and online expansion of Sea History magazine (including a new Sea History for Kids section) as well as, most recently, a $50,000 grant for the Society’s 8,000-volume Ronald L. Oswald Maritime Library.

Get Involved!  Advocate on Behalf of Your Organization and the Entire Maritime Heritage Community

Your advocacy efforts are critical in securing additional funding for the maritime heritage community. 

The National Maritime Alliance is pushing to increase federal appropriations for the Maritime Heritage Grant Program. This funding is crucial for the maritime heritage community.  Historic ships such as USS Olympia, Star of India, fishing schooner LA Dunton, Bugeye Edna Lockwood, and the Liberty ship John W. Brown are just a few examples of the many important vessels from coast to coast that have received vital funding. And the support doesn’t just go to ships—maritime museums, lighthouses, libraries, websites, digitizing projects and more have all been funded through this program.

Especially now we need to increase awareness that saving our maritime heritage is a mandate for our society and that funding must be a part of the federal budget. To convince our representatives in Washington, we need to increase our advocacy efforts and for that, we need your help!

Sign the petition!

The strongest way to make your voice heard is to sign our petition and write to your local congressional Representative or Senator. Let them know that this matching grant funding is vital to preserving historical assets and our maritime heritage programs in every state. Not sure where to send your letter?  Find your US Representative and Find your US Senator with these helpful links.


For additional information and to learn more about how you can advocate with the National Maritime Alliance for funding the maritime heritage community, please email

Port Discovery Baltimore Children's Museum LR

National Maritime Heritage Grant recipient Port Discovery Children's Museum in Baltimore, MD.

NMH Grant Recipient Mystic Seaport's Fishing Schooner L.A. DUNTON

National Maritime Heritage Grant recipient Mystic Seaport's fishing schooner L.A. Dunton in Mystic, CT.

W.O. Decker

National Maritime Heritage Grant recipient South Street Seaport Museum in New York City is undertaking the preservation of the treasured 1930 tugboat W.O. Decker.

Split Rock Ligthouse 3

National Maritime Heritage Grant recipient Split Rock Lighthouse, southwest of Silver Bay, Minnesota on the North Shore of Lake Superior.  Photo: Minnesota Historical Society.