A museum for the New Forest had been the dream of many people for a long time. With the celebration of the ninth centenary of the Forest's foundation in 1979 the first moves towards the realisation of that objective became possible.
The New Forest Ninth Centenary Trust was founded in that year and set about raising funds for a museum. The dream became a reality when in the summer of 1988 the New Forest Museum was opened by the Duke of Edinburgh. A further rebuild and refurbishment of all facilities in 2003 made the Museum a cultural centre for the New Forest designed to cater for the local New Forest community as well as the many thousands of visitors who wished to make their initial explorations through its portals.
New Forest District Council has for many years supported the work of the Trust through an annual grant that underpins the work of the Education Service. New Forest District Council and other major supporters have make possible the realisation of the vision of the New Forest Ninth Centenary Trust and their continued support has enabled the Centre to grow and develop.
An Association with the National Park Authority was entered into on the 1 July 2007. Under the agreement the Centre underwent a complete re-branding and updated many of its displays to reflect the National Park status of the Forest. On the 12 June 2008, the Centre celebrated this new phase of its history with the Chairs of both organisations ceremonially branding a plaque with the initials NFC to denote the New Forest Centre.
The Centre is entirely owned by the New Forest Ninth Centenary Trust, a registered charity (No. 279373). A board of trustees has overall responsibility for the work of the Museum and the Trust.