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Ships Models- History of Shipping in Miniature


Scottish Maritime Musuem, Linthouse Building, Harbour Rd, Irvine KA12 8BT


Start: 10:00am
End: 4.00pm



10 February – 26 May 

A fascinating exhibition exploring the history of ship models and the evolution in shipbuilding design opens at the Scottish Maritime Museum on Irvine Harbourside on Saturday 10 February.

‘Ship Models – A History of Shipping in Miniature’ will feature a diverse collection of ship models built by professional shipyard modellers and amateur model makers as well as beautiful glass ships in bottles, an art form which became popular at the end of the last century. The exhibition illustrates how, although not always built to scale, model ships were important to different cultures across the world in influencing ship design for travel and trade and developing an increased capability in warfare.

Eva Bukowska, Exhibitions and Events Officer at the Scottish Maritime Museum, says:

“We are delighted to open our latest exhibition – ‘Ship Models – A History of Shipping in Miniature’.

“Ship models, which were made of materials ranging from brass, lead, copper, glass, pearl and, more rarely, gold leaf, are an essential and exciting tool for understanding and celebrating technological advancements in shipbuilding.  Ship models also provide us with an interesting insight into cultures around the world making this an exhibition which visitors of all interests will enjoy.”

‘Ship Models – A History of Shipping in Miniature’

The exhibition begins with ship modelling in the Ancient world. Whilst ship models were made as toys and household decorations, particularly throughout Greece, Egypt and Phoenicia (modern day Lebanon), they had a more formal use during the burial of Pharaohs. Whiles full sized boats, which would travel into the afterlife, were buried in pits near tomb of Pharaohs such as Tutankhamun, a model of the boat was symbolically placed within the tomb. Our understanding of ship models shows how during Medieval times two very different construction methods influenced shipbuilding across the world – the Clinker design of Viking ships in the north and the classical or Roman vessels made to carvel style in the south. By the end of the period, carvel construction had become the dominant design for large ships. In the latter half of the 17th century, the Admiralty began to instruct shipbuilders to present models of proposed Royal Navy vessels to help the Board make more informed decisions. Shipbuilders also began to use well-crafted and visually appealing models to showcase ship designs to commercial clients particularly showing how they would meet a shipowner’s specifications for cargo capacity, crew space, engine type and seakeeping abilities. The diaries of two young Clyde shipbuilders on show in the exhibition reveal the importance of model making in the sales process – Alexander Stephen, whose former Linthouse Engine Shed now houses the Scottish Maritime Museum’s collection in Irvine, and William Denny on whose former shipyard site sits the Museum’s Dumbarton collection. Over the following two centuries, new opportunities took ship modelling beyond the shipyards. In the 19th century, commercial model makers exploited a growing interest in national and international exhibitions and, by 1900, Glasgow was the largest model making city in the UK with over a dozen model and model engine-making companies like Kelso & Co. Today, the Clyde is home to only one model maker, Cemal Ozturk of Ozturk Model Makers. An approved model maker for BAE Systems, Cemal began model making in 1989. In the late 20th century, the decline of heavy industry led skilled scientific glassblowers to turn from making laboratory apparatus to crafting glass ships in bottles to sell. A thirty year boom in demand for these intricate and beautiful artworks ensued.


The exhibition concludes with a look at amateur model making which thrives today.

‘Ship Models – A History of Shipping in Miniature’ runs from Saturday 10 February to Sunday 26 May.

The Scottish Maritime Museum on Irvine Harbourside is open daily from 10am – 5pm.

The exhibition is included in Museum Admission.


Up to three children go FREE with each Adult/Concession ticket.

Facebook/Twitter/Instagram @scotmaritime

Issued on behalf of the Scottish Maritime Museum by
Joanna Harrison, Mobile: 07884 187404

Exhibition Details


Scottish Maritime Musuem, Linthouse Building, Harbour Rd, Irvine KA12 8BT


This exhibition has now closed
Start: 10:00am
End: 4.00pm
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