Models as cross-cultural design; Ethnographic ship models at the National Maritime Museum

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Throughout history people all over the world have made three-dimensional, small-scale models of their own and others’ material culture. The miniature format can seem easily comprehensible, yet as selective interpretations of reality, models hide complex choices of design and ideology. This article traces the history of the non-European ship model collection in the care of the National Maritime Museum, London. It finds in a single collection of miniature watercraft a nexus for many narratives, highlighting the values and multiple significances that have been invested in these models and others like them, both at the point of their production and during their ‘lives’ in Western collections. In doing so, it investigates the role that non-European models have played in an institution dedicated to ‘British’ national identity and, more broadly, considers the functions, effects and limitations of modelling, both in terms of cross-cultural design practice and museum display.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)241-256
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of The History of Collections
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 16 Oct 2014

Bibliographical note

This is a pre-copyedited, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in the Journal of the History of Collections following peer review. The version of record - Claire Wintle, ‘Models as cross-cultural design: Ethnographic ship models at the National Maritime Museum’, Journal of the History of Collections, first published online October 16, 2014 doi:10.1093/jhc/fhu052 is available online at:


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