This collection comprises about 300 models depicting ships from ancient times to the present. Again, it is one of the most significant collections of its type in Australia and has been featured in QMM temporary exhibitions. It includes builders’ models, construction and plating models, shipping agency models, exhibition models, working models, hobbyists’ models, toy models, and miniature ships in bottles. The collection’s earliest example is a cased model presented to Captain John Labbatt of the steamer Diamond for rescuing the crew of small boat that capsized on Moreton Bay in January 1865. The model, set on sea modelled in plaster, is a fine example of 19th-century craftsmanship. Other early examples include a series of cased dioramas with half models of sailing ships shown in sea settings; sadly, because of their mixed media, they are in poor condition.
The collection includes a large series of boatbuilders’ half models tracing the development of boat design from the 1890s to the present, including the work of such well-known Queensland builders as Norman Wright snr and jnr, Don Craig, W. Fitton, and George and Cec Crouch. These half models, carved in layers of variegated timbers to a scale of one inch or, one and a half inches, to the foot, show one half of a vessel's hull without rigging or other fixtures. Before the advent of computer designing, such models were the starting point for boat design, a means of planning a vessel’s sheer and ensuring its symmetry. Also, the collection has large shipbuilders’ scale and half models depicting larger vessels. These, the work of professional model makers employed by shipyards, were made for shipping companies or owners. Another highlight of the collection is a series of models by Brisbane’s leading model maker, John McDonald, depicting historical craft from ancient Egypt to the early 20th century. Most of these superbly crafted models are complete with miniature figures and have cases lined with blue velvet representing sea.
Other notable examples are:
- a model of the 18th-century English frigate HMS Pandora shown with artefacts recovered from the wreck of the ship on the Great Barrier Reef;
- a half model of Maggie Lauder, made in 1873 by Brisbane shipbuilder W. Nimmo;
- a model of Ada, ca1880, made by pioneer Queensland mariner and shipowner William Collin;
- a shipbuilder’s mirror-backed half model of SS Koopa, a popular tourist ship built in 1911 in Scotland for the Brisbane Tug & Steamship Company;
- a shipbuilder’s model of SS Matthew Flinders built in 1914 by Fleming & Ferguson of Paisley, Scotland for the Queensland Government;
- a 2-metre sheet-metal model of the World War I battlecruiser HMS Repulse, complete with working steam engine;
- shipping agency models of the Orient Line passenger liners SS Otranto and RMS Orion built in 1925 and 1934 respectively by Vickers Ltd of Barrow-in-Furness, England and used on the UK–Australia run;
- a shipbuilder’s model of the SS River Burnett built in 1947 by Evans Deakin of Brisbane; and
- a large model of the migrant ship SS Amarapoora, made by Hungarian migrant Louis Juraszko who came to Australia on this ship after World War II.