The building of ship models, or model ships, is a craft as old as shipbuilding itself, going back to ancient times when water transport was first developed.
Model ships in ancient Egypt, Greece and other parts of the Mediterranean were made as burial goods, household articles, objects of art and children’s toys. From the Middle Ages onwards model ships were made in Europe for the same purposes. From the early 18th century models were also constructed to show prospective buyers how their full-size ship would appear and what construction techniques and designs would be used.
In the early 20th century amateur model ship kits became available for the first time. Today, although wooden and tinplate materials are still used for ship modelling, precast plastic sets have become more popular. Pre-printed paper construction kits have also become common. All these materials are represented in the Museum’s collection.
The Museum’s collection of model ships covers a wide range of naval and commercial sailing vessel types, including cogs, carracks, galleons, barques, schooners, clippers, racing yachts and multi-masted windjammers. This range is complemented by models of steam and motor vessels, such as cargo ships, ferries, dredges, pleasure craft and warships. In addition, there is a small collection of models of watercraft used by Pacific island nations.
Highlights of the collection are models of Captain Cook’s Endeavour, the Bounty, the Pandora, the Yongala, the forced labour (blackbirding) transport Foam, HMAS Townsville (I and II), HMAS Sydney (II), USS Lexington, HMS Royal Sovereign and the tourist reef viewing vessel Mantra, better known as the “Yellow Sub” among many people in Townsville.