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I will not go into my opinion of the way the restored Cutty Sark is displayed at Greenwich - one can only be thankful that is was saved and following a recent revival of my interest in ship modelling I decided to pay a visit to the maritime museum that I had fond memories of 20 or so years ago when I was active in this hobby and was a regular customer of Greenwich Maritime Models which without doubt was the best model boat shop in England at that time. Alas it had to close because of economic reasons and market changes but at least the NMM would still be there. Big waste of time -  I recall roaming through the corridors and galleries in awe of the models and artefacts on display - what a national treasure. Napoleonic prisoner bone models, Nelsons uniform at Trafalgar, numerous ship models and pictures that captured and inspired a budding boat builder. With eager anticipation and a promise of sights and interesting things to view I persuaded my new partner to accompany me on a visit. Well it was in and out in 30 mins. I do not want to see a large map of the globe painted on a floor with fast food coffee shops surrounding, an entrance hall that has another coffee shop. Interactive interpretation display of Turners painting of the Battle of Trafalgar - why? go to a gallery. I must say I was more than upset that what I thought was a national treasure and a respected place of reference has now turned into a multi media ensemble and a child's play area.

I guess I will have to sail my boat to Holland where they take their history with a bit more respect.

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Welcome to the world of "modern" museums, where the focus is on providing open spaces and a few changing exhibits in a multimedia format that entertains. 

 

It is, to a dinosaur such as myself, both depressing and frustrating.  I much prefer to read as my learning style - standing in line to watch some narrated video on a monitor is not enjoyable.  I suppose there is a need to change with the times to remain relevant, but only time will show if these curatorial changes are effective in drawing young families to museums (the goal is to increase visitorship) or, conversely, if folks like us that stop visiting are not replaced by milenials. 

 

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I fully understand the need to "capture" the imagination of the new "generations" in what can be a "stale" environment for the play station era but a national heritage? Is Walt Disney going to do a interactive display or narration of the Bible? Hell why not let a 10 year old design a play area around the Houses of Parliament. Too much emphasise has been made to attract more visitors to museums and sites of public importance - so much so - that they loose their identity and are cast aside as failed enterprises for the investor rather than respected - and hopefully an educated younger generation - History needs to be remembered factually and not "theme park"  orientated or we are back to square one.

Heritage, History is important - burger joints and smart phones come and go.

 

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Thank goodness the changes at Preble Hall at the US Naval Academy a few years ago  where positive, and they still provide easy access to speaking with experts on the many models on display there. 

 

Allan

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Unfortunately things have changed. Two possible suggestions: 1) the Royal Observatory up on Maze Hill. There are (well, still were, the last time I visited!) wonderful examples of navigational instruments, astronomical instruments and chronometers. 2) the Royal Dockyard at Chatham. Not many models on display, but quite a lot of interesting naval/maritime artifacts and actual vessels. If you are researching, arrange to view models from the reserve collection stored there before visiting. You need to be specific about what you wish to see/study.

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Hi,

 

I am in full agreement with your comments relating to the sad demise of the National Maritime Museum.  It's been reduced to little more than a theme park rather than a museum,  a reflection of the need for instant gratification and a trend for skimming through details and facts that the young seem to need these days,  a need developed and driven by modern technology,  games,  phones etc.  Even the historic buildings at the museum are often regarded as little more than a film set - 'Le Miserables' restricted my access when I went to Greenwich on one occasion. 

The young seem often to lack the will to actually engage with a topic and as for having to think things through for themselves ..... oh no - 'give it to me on a plate!', ' show me a You-tube clip'. I speak as a Design and Technology teacher with 40 years 'before the mast' and have gone to great lengths to try and inspire the 'customers'. My Victory model sat behind my desk for short time when the hull needed sanding, a job that couldn't be done at home for fear of upsetting the Admiral. They see, they ask questions, they focus better on the work they are asked to do. At other times the chassis of a 3 1/2" gauge steam locomotive grew slowly over the year, and for a period last year my Norton Commando underwent the initial stages of restoration in the corner of the workshop. (after the end of the school day I hasten to add!). 

 

If your interested in 'prisoner of war' bone models and are in the North Devon (UK) area I can thoroughly recommend Arlington Court where an extensive collection of these, and other ship models are on display. The house has strong links with Sir France Chichester of sailing around the world 'single handed' fame. To bring this neatly full circle - his yacht 'Gypsy Moth' was on display next to the Cutty Sark back when I was a lad. Those were the days ......

 

Cheers,

 

Graham.

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Those were the days, indeed, Graham. BTW, where is Gypsy Moth now? I, too, remember her close to the River at Greenwich years ago.

 

Your students are very fortunate to have you enrich their learning experience with real models in the classroom. Good stuff!

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Hi druxey,

 

After quietly rotting in her specially made dry dock next to Cutty Sark Gypsy Moth IV was sold , for £1 and a gin and tonic, and restored to sailing condition in the yard where she was originally built.

Since then she has had a very interesting history of which I was totally unaware until I looked her up on Wikipedia just now - a great read which I can recommend.

 

Cheers,

 

Graham

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The current state of traditional Museums and historical artifacts is indeed troubling.  In 2005, I had the pleasure of having, what I believe was then called, a modeler's tour of HMS Victory.  It was incredible enjoyable.  Now, a recent visitor tells me that such a tour is no longer offered.  The last time that I visited the Science Museum, in 2012, I was in an almost empty Nautical Gallery.  No complaints by me as it was quiet and I spent many hours there.  A curator was in the gallery and gave me what amounted to a private tour for almost an hour.  Then, he proceeded to tell me that the entire exhibit was being taken down and put in storage.  I asked why, even though I expected that I knew the answer.  First, he told me to look around.  See, he said, except for you and I, there is almost no one here.  Look at how much space is devoted to all of those large battleship and cruiser models.  We need the space for more current and important topics having to do more with science.  After all, we are not the Maritime Museum.  That collection has since been removed.  Maritime Museum is now one gallery with one of each class ship and that's it.

 

On this side of the Atlantic, The Smithsonian Institution American History Museum removed most of the models years ago and replaced many with "interpretive posters" with information that is very general and obtainable from the internet in most cases.  You can see it in how some Museum Ships, USS Intrepid in NYC for one, bear little mind to what their original purpose was, and as others have stated, turned into an Amusement park.  Thankfully, there are still very good ship displays out there, like in San Diego, but these are few now.  You would however be interested to know that the last time that I was at Mystic Seaport, one of the docents mentioned to me that the most often received question that they got was, "Where are the models?"  Mystic is now building a Huge exhibit hall.  It's a little disconcerting that it is so, "modern" and a little incongruous with the rest of the seaport, but I'm told the plan is to fill it with models that are currently in storage.  Is it possible that, just maybe, there might be a little turn around that realizes that even though some change is necessary, the old museum still has a place.

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Well put fsdsman that's exactly my own thoughts on the NMM. I haven't been back since an earlier visit in 2016 and its I unlikely I will return for many a year. I have experienced that same effect in a volunteer museum for industrial heritage where a museum professional succeed in stripping the place almost bare whilst I was a director citing this is the modern approach to museums.

 

Norman 

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I thought it was only me! I went to the NMM about 4 years ago, stayed but a short time and departed vowing never to go again. It is sad that it seems to be being run by a bunch of idiots who have no empathy with the traditions of once proud maritime nation. I love visiting Portsmouth where they appear to understand how to engage with my generation. 

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I would further add that I would not be surprised if the current management had led the campaign to name the new arctic survey ship "Boaty McBoatface". Another example of how our modern society respects the achievements and traditions of our maritime past.

 

Grumpy Old Man!

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Keith,

 

"Boaty McBoatface"  seems to have come out of several areas of social media about the same time.  I think it started as a joke and got out of control from there.  

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In '06 I was able to visit NMM, The Science museum and Portsmouth.  I am so happy I was given that opportunity.  Very sad that much of what I saw is now in storage and not easily accessible.

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Well, the NMM went downhill since the late 1980s, when the Thatcherism ideology demanded to withdraw funding from a lot of 'public' interests, meaning that, if you are interested in something you should pay for it directly and not through general taxes. Another problem seem to be directors/curators of museums: today you can study this at university. Of course, once you are out, you have to look for a job and there are not that many, so you have to go for one when you see it, even if the subject of the museum is not one of your interests. So, today we have a lot of museum directors, who don't really have a clue of the specific subject of the museum, being just 'museum' people. In the old days it was a vocation ...

Until the 'refurbishment' in the early 1990s the NMM had a full-size paddlewheel steam-tug, the RELIANT ex-OLD TRAFFORD (http://www.maritima-et-mechanika.org/maritime/reliant/reliant.html) , on display. They scrapped(!) it and only the two engines survived (one of them is on display in the NMM, I believe). Last year the Newcomen Society wanted to publish a book about her and ended up on my Web-site looking for pictures that no one in the museum seems to have had ...

What fills me with apprehension is that the Musée de la Marine here in Paris will close at the end of the month for about four years - for refurbishment. Already the previous one in the 1980s resulted in a loss of the old display cases that allowed to really see the models. I hope we will not have another theme-park. At least, traditionally the director is a (retired) naval officer.

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Truly hope Musée de la Marine will keep the models, it is a unique place. Sadly, with that feeling "why am I the only one here? the museum is so awesome! where are the visitors?"

 

And please do not blame youngsters for it (disclaimer: I am 28). Most of the young people I talked to about it - do not appreciate that "multimedia" museums. The quality of that "media" is typically a crap, and it looks as pathetic as a dad trying to wear teenage clothes and listen for teenage music just to be closer to his teenage kids. 

The logic of "want to engage youngsters? put a screen everywhere, they love screens" is as stupid as "you just need sweets and flowers to attract a women - they love this stuff, right?". Well, not really, apparently that alone is not enough. And also you need really good sweets, not a junk ones from the closest grocery store.

So lots of the museums are going through that cargo-cult of attracting "millenials" with "screens". Good luck with that, not all screens are created equal!

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Very sad news about La Musee de la Marine, Wefalck. I was only in Paris for 48 hours this summer but I spent at least four of them in the museum. Definitely among my top two naval museums in the world. Fortunately, I'm less than an hour from my other favorite in Annapolis.

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Better still and its free is the Nelson Museum at Monmouth in South Wales - a simple exhibition of Nelson artefacts yes its free with a couple of excellent models one of the Victory in her 1805 configuration and the other representing the Fouydrant from the Nile .

 

Norman

.

 

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On ‎05‎/‎03‎/‎2017 at 2:59 PM, TomShipModel said:

On this side of the Atlantic, The Smithsonian Institution American History Museum removed most of the models years ago and replaced many with "interpretive posters" with information that is very general and obtainable from the internet in most cases.  You can see it in how some Museum Ships, USS Intrepid in NYC for one, bear little mind to what their original purpose was, and as others have stated, turned into an Amusement park.  Thankfully, there are still very good ship displays out there, like in San Diego, but these are few now.  You would however be interested to know that the last time that I was at Mystic Seaport, one of the docents mentioned to me that the most often received question that they got was, "Where are the models?"  Mystic is now building a Huge exhibit hall.  It's a little disconcerting that it is so, "modern" and a little incongruous with the rest of the seaport, but I'm told the plan is to fill it with models that are currently in storage.  Is it possible that, just maybe, there might be a little turn around that realizes that even though some change is necessary, the old museum still has a place.

 

Hi Tom;

 

thanks for the reassuring post,  but I have to ask: what is a docent?  I have not seen it on this side of the pond. 

 

All the best,

 

Mark

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56 minutes ago, Mark P said:

Hi Tom;

 

thanks for the reassuring post,  but I have to ask: what is a docent?  I have not seen it on this side of the pond. 

 

All the best,

 

Mark

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Museum_docent

Museum docent is a title given in the United States of America to persons who serve as guides and educators for the institutions they serve, usually on a voluntary basis. The English word itself is derived from the Latin word docēns, the present active participle of docēre (to teach, to lecture).

 

Cheers

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I hope this post does not open a can of worms or offend, and I stress, is just my opinion based on recent interaction with a couple of Museums.

 

I would not have an issue with the Museums turning into "theme parks" (very aptly put Graham) IF (a big if)  the research component of the museum remained fully accessible.  It seems that everything  is now done to simply earn as many dollars as possible for the minimum outlay.  Pulling in customers with the "gee whiz smokes and mirrors" is all fine; but, there are still many people interested in researching etc whether the models or related information.  

 

Nowadays, if you want information you have to pay an arm and a leg, and many curators/collection supervisors and the like make it as difficult as possible to get the information either because they want recompense/money for the information or find it all too difficult as it is not their area of expertise.  I will not identify institutions but recently I was after some specific information.  One institution went out of their way to be helpful and provided exactly what I needed; the other evaded my questions to the point of nearly being rude.  I had photographic evidence the equipment that I needed better photos of was fitted to their display but I was informed that it wasn't and was pointed in all sorts of irrelevant directions to sources that I explained on several occasions was not what I needed - go figure?  So much for them providing a service.  The info will probably remain buried away in a dark hole somewhere until someone decides it is only taking up space and they ditch it.

 

As far as I am concerned they believe they are only there to make money - not to provide a service or preserve history.

 

cheers

 

Pat

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In a way it is not the fault of the museums as such, it is the fault of political decision-makers, who decided to take the public funding away from museums. Now they have to find other sources of income in order to preserve the institution - and their jobs of course (who can blame them for this, we all need to eat). So it is a system failure to not fund the preservation of our material history adequately. But then, who needs history, but a few old nostalgic guys and girls ... the future is virtual ...

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Hi Wefalck.  I understand your point, and fully agree the root cause, but I don't think I can be as 'forgiving' :) 

 

I accept that Museums need to earn dollars based on the decisions of policy makers/politicians and bean counters; but, I cannot readily forgive them for employing  people without the appropriate levels of experience or expertise to manage these institutions, or be responsible for collections for which they have no expertise.  I also cannot forgive them for not supporting those of us who are merely wishing to preserve historical/maritime information and need some support to do so.  Charging a reasonable (and I stress reasonable) fee for the service is acceptable; but,  as an example, the fees charged by the NMM for a digital copy of of an unscanned drawing/plan are exorbitant (in my opinion).  Also, if Museum staff are being obtuse or deliberately unhelpful, again in my opinion, this is very much not in the interests of the Museum or the greater good of historical/maritime information preservation.

 

In the first example, again only an opinion, the NMM would probably generate more money and be able to digitalise their collection much more rapidly if the costs for 'first-time' copies were spread/amortised over the sale of multiple copies, rather than slugging the first researcher/request to ask for them.  Seventy quid for each sheet is exorbitant, especially as the output is only JPG.  The costs of previously digitised plans are reasonable - so I cannot understand their business model - BUT it is their call - just saying :)

 

In the second instance, why are some Museums/Staff so unhelpful, surely it is within their purview to support related research?  I know they may receive some frivolous requests, but these are easily identified.  I have paid for most research I have conducted even engaging a Researcher as it is much cheaper than a trip to the UK :)  In most instances the requested fees are very reasonable, and in some cases the information is offered openly and for free.  in those circumstances I usually offer/and give a small donation to the Museum.   I am not an Academic or professional researcher justa model ship builder looking for accurate information and we are the most affected by this "information highjacking" I feel.  There are opportunities for Academics and professional researchers to access this info a little more easily, and usually free I think - so why should the hobbyist be slugged?

 

By all means, have a gee whiz fancy gadget physical presence by all means, but please do not lock away models and information and make it too difficult to access them.

 

I will get off my soap box and slink into a dark dingy corner now :)

 

cheers

 

Pat

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Here in Augusta, GA, USA, they had an interactive museum, Fort Discovery. It lasted about 10 years. I went once. It was setup for elementary school level students. Even then at its height, about a 1/4 of the displays were broken, kids are rough on stuff.

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Hello,

 

I'm just back from London and the NMM. They have changed the displays and most sad, the hall with all those fantastic models I have seen there 4 years ago. It looks now this way, WWI ships. 

 

DSC04961.jpg.0fcabf936508a6e3fc21a16f958ee128.jpg

 

DSC04962.jpg.0d13002e72d673c8cdebd74f44392985.jpg

 

There are still models in the other wings, but only a few here and there. 

But they rebuild a new wing over three floors, it shall open 2018 with more models then ever as Geoff Lee told me. We will see.

 

DSC05026.jpg.a03dda1153af299cca9da66d0a3458fa.jpg

 

I also have bee at Chatham. The staff there don't allow to take fotos in the Smithery NO1 exhibition. The models there belong to the NMM and not to the Chatham museum, so they could not allow taking pictures! It is also so dark there, I could hardly see anything. I had an appointment there with a man from the NMM and got the pictures from the ships I wanted, with good light! In this case my visit was a success. 

 

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