The beginning of the Naval museum is laid in the Danube city of Russe in 1883.In the same city in 1879 was created the military fleet of the newly liberated Bulgarian Principality. The first document about the museum is the report of the Captain Lieutenant Zinovi Rozhestvenski – commander of the Danube fleet, to the Defense Minister from 12 (24) October 1883.It was announced in that it has already started the collecting of antiquities and the Naval museum was in “germ”. Together with the newly created library the museum will contribute for the “formation of the adequate circles” in the Fleet. In 1885 for curator of the museum maritime collection was named the engineer Pavel Kuzminski. The first exponents are mostly models of armaments and technical appliances. From that time there is a preserved personal arms and belongings.
The idea about a Naval museum in the fleet was in process of development. At the end of the First World War in Varna had arisen real preconditions for its opening to visitors : exponents were collected, the launched initiative found supporters, premises were provided. The opening of the museum was preceded by a decision of the Board of directors of the Bulgarian National Marine Agreement (BNMA) from August 1921 that specified the museum collection to be moved from Russe to Varna .Provided were two rooms in the Girls’ High School of that time.The initiators were the officers Georgi Slavianov, Ivan Mihailov , Sava Ivanov. Among the first names of curators were Protasi Pampulov, St. Canev, Djeferov. The prominent Bulgarian archaeologist Karel Shkorpil was also enlisted.The sketches, the plans, the diagrams and the legendary “Sea bottom” were due to the Russian colonel Alexander Poluboyarinov, educated in archaeology.
The official opening and consecration of the Maritime museum (as it was called then) took place on May 20, 1923, by that it could be defined as the first public maritime museum in Bulgaria. It was sanctified by the bishop of Varna and Preslav- Simeon. In the word of Karel Shkropil we read : “The purpose of the museum is to explore and present the development of the Bulgarian navigation to the society…aims to propagate the concept of love to the sea, the needs of its knowledge and the enormous benefits from it. In the museum the visitor will get acquainted with the history of our former military and commercial fleet…”
In the coming decades, a continual employee who is at the same time a curator and security guard, is Olga Poluboyarinova.
For a long time, the existence of the museum and its survival were due to the public support of the Bulgarian National Marine Agreement. The agreement established a fund “Museum” and with its help and by voluntary donations supported the museum.
By Ministerial order N. 46/April 10, 1955 the Maritime museum entered into the Ministry of National Defense under the name Naval museum as a branch of the Central Museum of the National Army (today National Museum of Military History). It is situated in the building on N.2 “Primorski” blvd. The official opening came about by order of the Minister of National Defense on August 9, 1956. Soon the set from the beginning idea, started to impose- the preservation and the popularization of the worthy past of maritime Bulgaria in the broader sense – shipping, shipbuilding, events in the marine sports and in the artistic painting of the sea. Today, the museum preserves collections of maritime weapons – mines, coastal and marine artillery; of uniforms and decorations, of ship models, large number of photographs, etc.
With the Naval museum are connected the first underwater archaeological researches in Bulgaria. The first of that kind of expeditions was organized in 1959 at the cape Kaliakra. In the coming decades were carried out series of studies – near the cape Kaliakra, in Shabla, in Varna Bay, etc.
The museum was awarded the medal “Cyril and Methodius” first class, by which it was awarded in 1973 for the 50th anniversary of the opening of its exposition in Varna.
Hundred of thousands are the estimated visitors that have passed in the open and covered expositions, where there are exposed to a total at about 1200 objects. There are years in which the museum is the most visited : in 1973 was awarded a special diploma of the two-millionth visitor (from 1956)- a Soviet citizen and in the reports from the 80th years are recorded from 200 000 to 250 000 visitors annually.
Throughout its existence, the museum enjoys a special attitude from the part of Varna sea guild. In every moment from its history we feel the care on the part of the command of the Bulgarian navy. Today, among the closest adherents of the Naval museum is the Association “National Maritime Museum”.