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The Shipping Gallery at Liverpool Museum

4 October 2016 by Emma Martin

A model ship with sails being studied by two young boys in school uniform

The Leader model was the museum’s first ship model, acquired in 1862 for the Mayer Museum, the predecessor of Liverpool (now World) Museum.

In the final blog in our series on World Museum and the Blitz I asked Rebecca, Curator of Maritime History at the Merseyside Maritime Museum to tell us about the development of the now lost Shipping Gallery which was once described as “the department which probably holds the greatest public interest, particularly for the citizens of Liverpool”

“Ship models have been part of the museum since its earliest collection, but despite being an important port city the ship model collection was slow to gather pace at the turn of the twentieth century. This changed in 1924 when Robert Gladstone, a keen maritime historian began to commission ship models and fishing boats for the museum.

A gallery tightly packed with shipping models in wooden cases,with maritime themed paintings on the wall

The Shipping Gallery, 1933

In 1931 Douglas Allen became Director of Liverpool City Museums and an advocate for the collection. His aim was not only to illustrate the evolution of the ship but also to represent the many interesting vessels associated with Merseyside. In his article for The Mersey Magazine, Douglas writes ‘We are an Island people, and our love of the sea and its ships is probably as old as our history’. Beginning with a new display of ship models and paintings in 1931, the collections began to grow through new commissions and as many ship builders and ship owners contributed to the collection.

The museum continued to collect as the Second World War began, adding fourteen new ship models to its collection in 1939. Less than two years later the Shipping Gallery was badly damaged during the 1941 Blitz.

Many models were lost during the Blitz including the model of the impressive Sir Alfred floating crane and S.S. Ekuro, a passenger cargo ship.

Many models were lost during the Blitz including the model of the impressive Sir Alfred floating crane and S.S. Ekuro, a passenger cargo ship.

The gallery escaped the fires that raged through the museum, but water from the hosepipes caused a great deal of destruction and around sixty ship models were lost, including the Sir Alfred floating crane and S.S. Ekuro. These numbers could have been much worse, but fortunately parts of the collection had been evacuated to North Wales and remained there throughout the War.

Today the Merseyside Maritime Museum has over 2000 ship models in the collection and its one of the finest in the World, ranging from a wide selection of models from builder’s models to ship in bottles.”

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Welcome to the National Museums Liverpool blog! Written by our staff and volunteers, we’ll give you a peek behind the scenes of our museums and galleries.

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We try to ensure that the information provided on our blog is accurate and that appropriate permissions to use images have been sought. The opinions in each blog are very much those of the individuals writing.