The story starts with Waldo Johnston, Director of Mystic Seaport Museum in Connecticut, USA, and Basil Greenhill, Director of the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, London.  Basil was staying with Waldo in August 1969 prior to a meeting at Mystic Seaport, and the two men discussed the idea of an international maritime museum organisation.  The concept was unveiled at the meeting, and it was determined that the first gathering of maritime museums, sponsored jointly by both museums, should be held in Greenwich in 1972.

The first meeting was restricted to “the maritime museums of the Atlantic basin”; however, during the meeting it was agreed that the ICMM should be a global organisation. The first bye-laws were drawn up in 1973, and officially adopted by the ICMM Executive Committee in 1974.  The first formal Congress of the International Congress of Maritime Museums as we now know it took place in Oslo, Norway, in 1975.  

As of 2020, ICMM has more than 120 members in 36 countries.  We have expanded to include not just maritime museums, but also Affiliate and Associate members; respectively organisations and individuals connected with the wider world of maritime heritage.

Inaugural ICMM meeting at Queen’s House, Greenwich, London, in 1972.
Photo provided by Revell Carr, former President of ICMM and Director of Mystic Seaport Museum.

Past Presidents of ICMM (and year of election):

1975 Basil Greenhill
1981 Jules Van Beylen
1984 Revell Carr
1987 Bard Kolltveit
1993 Richard Foster
1996 Kevin Fewster
1999 Peter Neill
2002 Klas Helmerson
2005 Morten Hahn-Pedersen
2009 Frits Loomeijer
2013 Kevin Fewster
2015 Steve White