Ship Model Collections

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    Sam Willis

    Hello Everyone – I’m working on a ship model project – and to start with I need to know where the best ship models are…suggestions please, and not just in the UK.

    William M

    Sam W. — I am sure “best” means accurate and with attention to verifiable detail from source documents — as in a model’s hull having enough frames to achieve smooth lines — You might want to look at HMS SPEEDY – MASTER SHIPWRIGHT VERSION via as an example of a kit or raw plans from a well known model creator’s setting up shop on his own. He is, however “hands-on” and accessible; not someone buried in a corporate “Model Making Mill”. It has been several months since he and I last exchanged emails. Hopefully his solo venture is still alive. If you contact him tell him Wm. from Portland Or says Hello.
    Wm. Maris

    Malcolm Lewis

    A few suggestions: –
    National Marine Museum, Trocadero Gardens 75116, Paris. Wonderful large collection of fine models.
    Ville de Lorient. Musee La Campagne des Indeses. Collection of East Indiamen models in the home of the French East India Company.
    All Hallows by the Tower, London a collection of votive models hanging in the nave of this city church.
    Many of the beautiful ship models had embellishments which were not replicated in the full-sized vessel possibly because they were too costly or time consuming to reproduce.
    Bone models were made by French prisoners and whilst often very fine they are generally inaccurate as they were made from memory. The only model of HMS Temeraire, which is in the Southampton Maritime Museum, is a French prisoner’s bone model and is clearly not accurate but would have been very desirable for a collector.

    Michael Leek

    This request might be no longer active, but if not, the following might help. All collections listed have been done so on the quality and accuracy of their models, although most also hold models that are less accurate, such as sailor-made models, but even these can be historically important to researchers.

    Obviously the NMM – considered the finest ship model collection in the world.
    Imperial War Museum – specifically models made for the Admiralty during and between the two world wars (including rare cutaway models), plus the exquisite naval models made by Norman Ough).
    Science Museum – contemporary and modern (for the latter: Dr C Nepean Longridge’s models of HMS Victory and the Cutty Sark are worthy of note). Caveat: many models once housed in this museum have been returned to lenders. The ship model gallery is now no longer what it once was.
    Altonaer Museum, Hamburg, Germany.
    Internationales Maritimes Museum Hamburg, Germany.
    Musée national de la Marine, Paris (and at their subsidiaries).
    The Rogers Collection, US Naval Academy Museum, USA.
    Kriegstein Collection, USA (probably the finest private collection of Admiralty Navy Board models).
    Galata Maritime Museum, Genova, Italy.
    Riverside Museum, Glasgow (although not as many ship models on display as were once at the former Glasgow Museum of Transport).

    There are, of course many others, such as in the Scandinavian countries and in St Petersburg, Russia, etc, etc, all of which house quality models. Unfortunately, in recent years, many regional museums in the UK have sold off their ship model collections, so they’re no longer accessible to researchers. Furthermore, ship models in many public or national collections are held in store, so also not easily accessible to researchers, except by prior appointment.

    Sam Willis

    Many thanks for this Michael – the project I am working on as it stands can be found here: Maritime Innovation in Miniature

    Michael Leek

    Another valuable source Sam is the online gallery American Marine Models ( The owner, R Michael Wall, has, since he founded his gallery, dealt with internationally renowned model makers such as Donald McNarry, Lloyd McCaffery, Phillip Reed and Harold Hahn, amongst many others.

    A French model maker of repute is Bernard Frolich. He might be able to put you in contact with other highly skilled model makers in France (not sure if it’s still active, but there used to be regular monthly meetings held at the Musée national de la Marine of likeminded souls!).

    Closer to home is Malcom Darch, a long-standing member of the SNR, whose models are exquisite works of art, and historically accurate through intensive research. Malcolm wrote the excellent book Modelling Maritime History.

    Thank you for sending the link to your project. Fascinating! I’ll definitely be signing up!

    Michael Leek

    Good evening all!

    Last month I was in Lisbon for a few days (my first visit to this beautiful city). During our limited time we managed to fit in a fleeting visit to the maritime museum. And very impressive it was! Excellent and varied museum shop too (where the staff immediately and without question arranged for a large number of books to be shipped to my home; a service other museums should be willing to offer).

    What was extremely impressive was the museum’s collection of ship models. Some outstanding contemporary ones, whilst the majority showed the development of the Portuguese navy. These appeared to be relatively recent builds. These Portuguese navy models were to a constant 1:48 scale. They showed a level of craftsmanship and detail rarely seen in modern models. Even steam pinnaces carried by some warships were equipped with compound steam engines, boilers and much else besides! The same applied to the Portuguese equivalent of RN 27’ whalers.

    When I get time, I’ll share one or two photographs of some of the models. In the meantime, I wholeheartedly recommend the Portuguese maritime museum in Lisbon! You will not be disappointed!


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