Miniature maritime worlds

  • A photo from the Australian Maritime Museum showing the York model ship with cut away sides

    1/2

    Cutaway model of the prison hulk York, 1987.

    By Peter Heriz-Smith, model-maker. Timber, metal, 60.6 × 123.4 × 46 cm. Australian National Maritime Museum. Reproduced courtesy of the museum.

  • A photo from the Australian Maritime Museum showing the York model ship with cut away sides

    2/2

    Cutaway model of the prison hulk York, 1987.

    By Peter Heriz-Smith, model-maker. Timber, metal, 60.6 × 123.4 × 46 cm. Australian National Maritime Museum. Reproduced courtesy of the museum.

Love miniature worlds but fed up with Barbie and her wardrobe?

Then we have a maritime adventure for you!

With miniature maritime worlds in our sights the first thing you need is a parent or a grandparent. When you have one of those on board, make your way to the Australian National Maritime Museum to check out their model ships.

There's a convict hulk at the Maritime Museum with a cut away section so you can see into the ship's insides. You can see the spine of the ship, the way it’s been constructed, and you can see how the sailors and passengers would have moved around in it. Each of the tiny cabins has furniture in it and there are convicts scrubbing the floors and hauling barrels of supplies around. Magnificently made, you can get right in there with your imagination.

Model ship making is a very old craft—the oldest models were made of clay and were probably replicas of real ships so they aren't really considered to be the same as a toy. Models have been found as far back as the Bronze Age—that's 3000 BCE! Ship models were built for lots of reasons—sometimes people prayed to them for good weather to keep the real sailors and fishermen safe at sea. They were also made as prototypes, which means that before the real ship was built a little test one was made to make sure everything worked properly.

Model ships are built to a scale which represents a smaller but accurate version of the real ship. 1:48 means that one inch on the model equals 48 inches on the real ship. One inch is about 2.5 centimetres.

Each of the tiny cabins has furniture in it and there are convicts scrubbing the floors and hauling barrels of supplies around. Magnificently made, you can get right in there with your imagination.

Since we're on a little adventure here, your next stop is the Sydney Heritage Fleet. Right next door to the Maritime Museum on Wharf 7, the Sydney Heritage Fleet has a model ship workshop. The guys who run the workshop are real specialists, building and restoring a big range of models. When you take a tour of the James Craig you can see into the Sydney Heritage Fleet workshop. You can book a tour to see the workshop but make sure you book ahead because the workshop is a working one and the volunteers have to stop work to show you around.

Mum or Dad will probably need a rest soon and will want to check their mobiles, but try to keep them going for a bit longer with the offer of a delicious cappuccino 'if they're good'.

Get them onto the ferry at Darling Harbour and go around to Circular Quay. On the weekends ferries run every 20 minutes or so. You can find the timetable here.

Once at Circular Quay, take Mum and Dad by the hand and walk one block up Philip Street to the Museum of Sydney which is called MOS for short. At the MOS café they can sit and have their coffee. 

Inside MOS, head for the mezzanine level where you’ll find the amazing replicas of the First Fleet ships. Far from home, all 11 of them are there, bobbing around in the ocean. You can see the smaller supply ships lagging behind and the flagship Sirius leading the fleet. They're full to bursting with sailors and convicts and stuff for the new colony.

Now if Mum and Dad really can't take you out today and grandpa is busy, jump online and go to the BBC's website: The Mary Rose and there you can explore a Tudor ship! The Mary Rose was built in 1510 and sank during a battle in the river. In the 1982 the ship was salvaged from the muddy riverbed and forensic archaeologists reconstructed the lives of some of the sailors who lived and worked on the ship.

Miniature maritime worlds—better that Barbie's bus any day!

Museums & Galleries of NSW helps museums, galleries and Aboriginal cultural centres of NSW create exciting and inspiring experiences for visitors and strong, thriving local communities. We develop their skills, connect them with others in the industry, provide funding, point visitors their way, and give them access to ground-breaking exhibitions.

Museums & Galleries of NSW is supported by the NSW Government through Create NSW.

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