I think there should be a codex for ships and items in the game. I'm not sure where it will be most comfortably accessed. When you start the game, commonly found ships and items should be available in the codex. As you progress through the game, faction specific intelligence or relations should increase the size of your codex. When you dock with ships and discover new items, your codex should be updated. I think this adds an exploration or achievement like aspect to the game.
When you exit out of the game, there should be a general codex that you can view from the menu that you have discovered from the game. The intro sequence to the game would have a combination of ships you have discovered throughout the game. Ships that you have not discovered would not play in the intro. To make it even more interesting for players, each time the intro screen opens up, it would start off the game with the newest set of ships that you found.