Research project

'Unpath'd Waters': Marine and Maritime Collections in the UK

Project overview

Unpath’d Waters is one of five major Discovery Projects funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) as part of the Towards a National Collection programme.

The project aims to make its vast collections of charts, documents, images, film, oral histories, sonar surveys, seismic data, archaeological investigations and artefacts more accessible to the public and researchers.

Unpath’d Waters will also reach out to new audiences, working with them to understand their interests and needs and inviting the public to co-design ways of exploring the archives in order to uncover previously untold stories and highlight new questions to guide future research.

The UK has a rich and globally significant maritime history. Shipwrecks date from the Bronze Age to the World Wars, bearing testimony to Britain as an island nation, and a destination for trade and migration. Aircraft losses, submerged monuments, ports and seaside resorts all tell personal stories of struggles and successes.

This heritage, covering 23,000 years, is represented by collections of charts, documents, images, film, oral histories, sonar surveys, seismic data, bathymetry, archaeological investigations, artefacts, objects and artworks. But they are often dispersed, unconnected and inaccessible, split between government organisations, commercial concerns, academic institutions, charitable foundations and trusts, museums, archives, and individual collectors.

Yet we know our maritime past is only becoming more important and significant to the public. Millions of people already visit museums that tell the stories of our maritime heritage. Exploitation of the sea is increasing, and the public is more aware of the negative impact of our activities. Colonialism, slavery and immigration are also linked to our maritime past. Our maritime heritage played a significant role in these.


Lead researcher

Professor Fraser Sturt

Deputy Director SMMI

Research interests

  • Maritme Archaeology
  • Geomatics
  • Evaluation methods
Connect with Fraser
Other researchers

Professor Age Chapman

Professor of Computer Science
Connect with Age

Collaborating research institutes, centres and groups

Research outputs