The Museum's collection of nautical equipment represents the disciplines of navigation, surveying, meteorology, engineering, cargo handling, aids to navigation, oceanography, seamanship, diving, fishing, whaling, ship and boat building tools, and warfare.
The instruments used for navigating and charting at sea and include compasses, sextants, octants, calculators, chronometers, parallel rules, marine protractors, binoculars, telescopes and station pointers. The oldest object in the collection is an 18th century octant that was the property of Captain Edward Fiott of the East Indies Company. The collection of surveying instruments includes items used by a significant Queensland marine surveyor, Captain Ferris Roberts.
This collection has historic and research significance representing many aspects of most maritime trades and skills. Most of them have clear provenance and were sourced from vessels that operated in Queensland waters. Many represent transitions in nautical technology and most are in good condition. The collection includes examples from some of the finest and most notable nautical instrument manufacturers from the UK and Australia including Spencer, Browning & Rust, a London company operating from 1784 to 1840, Troughton & Simms, and British instrument maker Edward Massey who obtained at least six British patents on ship logs and other nautical measuring instruments between 1802 and 1848. The collection also includes instruments from Brisbane instrument maker including I C. Piers first listed in 1879, and Sawtell Opticians, a company operating from the 19th century that manufactured chronometers, compasses, barometers, and telescopes and published nautical almanacs and navigational guides.