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Napolean Prisoner of War Models

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In the late 1960s I visited the Maritime Museum in Greenwich, London. It was full of ship models on display. What left an everlasting memory were the prisoner of war models from the Napolean War. The POWs were allowed to sell handicraft for money to supplement their ration. For some reasons, quite a few of the POWs were craftmen in clock making and they made use of their skill to make models of ships that they sailed with. They made the models from memory, without plans. So they were not 100% accurate in all aspect. There were a few that were a combination of two different ships. But the detail work were exquisite. It was that visit that I got interested in ship modelling.

 

I visited London again in 2012 during the London Olympics. The first thing I did was to go to the Maritime Museum. It has changed completely from what I remembered and the POW models were not on display. I asked the staff of the museum about it but they don't even know what I what talking about. It was a huge let down for me. 

 

It strike me that some members might know about these POW models. What happened to them now? Are they on display somewhere?

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Zero information re: the actual models,, but there are two books


Prisoner-of-war ship models, 1775-1825 Hardcover – 1973
by Ewart C Freeston

Prisoner of War: Bone Ship Models - Treasures from the Age of Napoleonic Wars Paperback – June 1, 2016
by Manfred Stein

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Not that this will really help you but at least 2 such ships were on display in a large downtown Toronto law firm reception area back in the late 1990s.  I remember being quite impressed with them at the time and don’t know if they are still there. 

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Somebody local will certainly know more than I do, but I believe that in recent years the Royal Museums (National Maritime, Greenwich, Imperial War Museum, Science Museum, and so on) have been undergoing expansions and modernization, if not something of an administrative merger. I have heard that many of the NMM admiralty models have been relocated to the Royal Navy Museum at Chatham. For a while, I do know that many models were removed from display at the NMM and the Science Museum, but I've read that both museums have since opened new displays of ship models. There's a recent post on MSW of a forum member who recently visited one of the museums and was given by appointment a viewing of a requested number of models not on public display. His photos of these posted here are great. 

 

Museum exhibition practices are changing. The days of endless rows of display cases full of artifacts are ending. The modern approach is "interactive" displays with fewer artifacts and more "story telling" exhibits. Conversely, their collections aren't being deaccesioned, necessarily, but rather stored for research purposes. If you go to the Royal Museums' websites, you will find that a lot of their models and documentation are now available and inventoried on line, which is a huge boon to modelers. They still have the stuff, but they are allocating their exhibit space to exhibits that are of greatest, albeit "dumbed down," interest to the greatest number of visitors. We modelers are a "cut above" in terms of sophistication and, in many instances, approach or reach the level of academic researchers who are apparently welcomed to "the back rooms" by appointment only. The days of their exhibiting "everything we've got" are apparently over, but they've still got it all somewhere.

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In public view, there are several fine Napoleonic POW models in the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto,The Thomson Collection of ship models. If you wish to study them in the U.K., you need to make an appointment at the Royal Dockyard, Chatham. This is where the bulk of those models you saw at Greenwich back in the 60's are now stored.

 

As a note to Bob Cleek's assertion that  "...academic researchers who are apparently welcomed to "the back rooms" by appointment only." I don't know about other institutions but, if you have a genuine interest, you will be welcome to see models by appointment, even if you aren't an academic.

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Thank you for the information. So I have went to the wrong place. 😭 Unfortunately I do not have plans to visit either London or Canada, and might not have the chance to see these treasures again. But I will defintely try the websites of the Royal Museums. It will bring back many happy memories 

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The Rogers collection at the United States Naval Academy has a great collection as well if you’re ever on the East Coast United States

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Three years ago, the Smithsonian began a pilot project to do 3D scans of sample portions of its massive collection.  Ship models were not on the list, but the actual relic 1776 gondola Philadelphia was. In late 2016, I got backroom access at the SI to 3D scan the 5-foot half hull model of an 1865 steamer. That was after a two-year effort.  Most of that delay was due to the model being "lost". After I appealed to the office of the senior senator of California, SI staff located the model within a week. They were very cordial and even arranged parking on the Mall for the several hours it took to bring in my equipment, scan, and reload my vehicle. The majority of East Coast ship model collections opened their storage areas to me because I was testing digital tools of interest to them. I had no academic credentials, but enthusiasm and a focused research interest within this largely neglected historical resource will get one far. I toured the "basement models" of collections at MIT, USNA, USN Carderock, Mystic Seaport, and others.

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There are a couple of Napoleonic bone models at the Maritime Museum in Southampton, a 14th century stone barn re-purposed, and with a Titanic exhibit on the upper floor - at least that's the way it was when my wife and I visited in 2009.

 

Steven

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14 hours ago, US-SteamNavy said:

Three years ago, the Smithsonian began a pilot project to do 3D scans of sample portions of its massive collection.  Ship models were not on the list, but the actual relic 1776 gondola Philadelphia was. In late 2016, I got backroom access at the SI to 3D scan the 5-foot half hull model of an 1865 steamer. That was after a two-year effort.  Most of that delay was due to the model being "lost". After I appealed to the office of the senior senator of California, SI staff located the model within a week. They were very cordial and even arranged parking on the Mall for the several hours it took to bring in my equipment, scan, and reload my vehicle. The majority of East Coast ship model collections opened their storage areas to me because I was testing digital tools of interest to them. I had no academic credentials, but enthusiasm and a focused research interest within this largely neglected historical resource will get one far. I toured the "basement models" of collections at MIT, USNA, USN Carderock, Mystic Seaport, and others.

What an incredible resource a database of 3D scans of important contemporary ship models would be! The HAER ship plans collection, which isn't indexed as well as it might be, struggles for funding to record existing ships around the country. Digitally recording contemporary models rarely seen by the public would be a far more worthy expenditure of tax dollars than what we see being squandered by the government these days.

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in about 5 weeks i am heading to the states for a visit and one of our ports of call is Washington. we have an air BnB directly across the road from the naval base and one of my must do is visit the naval museum. along with all the smithsonians along the mall unfortunately we only have 2 and a half days there. so going to be a full on period for us

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Arlington Court In Devon UK used to have a very good collection of ship models with a number of Prisoner of war models. It is a National Trust house and their website does not help much but when I last went, about 10 years ago it had room after room of ship models.

 

Another reason a lot of museums have much smaller displays is that they have lost space to allow for disabled access.

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22 hours ago, Erik A said:

in about 5 weeks i am heading to the states for a visit and one of our ports of call is Washington. we have an air BnB directly across the road from the naval base and one of my must do is visit the naval museum. along with all the smithsonians along the mall unfortunately we only have 2 and a half days there. so going to be a full on period for us

One could spend a month going through the Smithsonians on the Mall and not feel like they'd seen it all. Actually, though, while it's been a long time since I've been there, I recall being disappointed that, relatively speaking, the Smithsonians didn't really have a lot of ship models on display. While the Museum of American History is the repository of the National Watercraft Collection (of models) curated by the late Howard I. Chapelle, there was at the time I went, only a small exhibit with a handful of models to represent that collection. I do think if you want to see models, the place to go would be the Navy Yard Museum in Washington and, if at all possible, you might take a 35 mile drive on the freeway to Annapolis and see the Naval Academy Museum, which has the Rogers Collection, which includes a fair number of Admiralty models, some of the finest in the world, actually, and a few "prisoner of war" models. There's 108 models in the famed Rogers Collection and who knows how many more on display at the Academy Museum. Maybe you can leave your traveling companion to spend a day alone in the fine art galleries while you do Annapolis. If you've seen one Van Gogh, you've see 'em all! :D  

 

(Just kidding about the Van Goghs and Rembrandts, of course. If you are interested in those, Amsterdam is the place to go.)

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