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.