“The Museum of Science & Industry’s Gallery of Model Ships” by S.M. O’Connor

There have been several versions of the model ships exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry, which has existed longer than the building has been open.  At any given time, the model ships on display represent a larger collection, with most of the model ships in the collection in storage.  Many, but by no means all, of the model ships were made in the Museum of Science and Industry’s own model-making workshops around seventy years ago.

Philanthropist Julius Rosenwald (1862-1932), President of Sears, Roebuck & Company, founded the Museum of Science and Industry in 1926 through The Commercial Club of Chicago, of which he was a member.  Mr. Rosenwald wanted Chicago to have a large science and industrial museum modeled on the Deutsches Museum von Meisterwerken der Naturwissenschaft und Technik (German Museum of Masterpieces of Science and Technology) in Munich, Bavaria, Germany,[1] in Munich, Bavaria, Germany. His fellow trustees named the museum the Rosenwald Industrial Museum in his honor, but he was a modest man and asked them to remove his name.  In 1929, the trustees changed the name to the Museum of Science and Industry.  The Deutsches Museum’s Transportation division has a Marine Navigation department with 232 model ships, as well as a few full-sized vessels, two of which are submarines.  Those submarines are Wilhelm Bauer’s mid-19th Century demonstration model for his proposed submarine Brandtaucher (“Incendiary-driver”) and the U-1 commissioned into the Imperial Germany Navy in 1906.  Thus, the Museum of Science and Industry’s directors and curators knew from the beginning that they wanted a collection of model ships just as they knew they wanted a submarine, if they were going to realize Julius Rosenwald’s vision of founding a major science museum in Chicago.  

      Amassing such a collection fell under the remit of one of the original five curators hired by M.S.I. Executive Director Waldemar Kaempffert (1877-1956) in 1928, Seabury Colum Gilfillan (1889-1987), who was a civil engineer. His titles were Curator of Transportation & Communication (1928), Curator of Social Sciences and Water Transport (1929), and Curator of Ships (1929).  For part of 1929, Gilfillan shared responsibility for Water Transportation Section with a fellow civil engineer, Fred A. Lippold.  A German naval architect, Lippold had worked at the Deutsches Museum as a model-maker before he came to M.S.I. as Curator of Civil Engineering & Public Works.  At some point in ‘29, Lippold succeeded Gilfillan as Curator of Shipbuilding & Navigation.

In mid-1931, upon Lippold’s resignation, Major Carlos de Zafra, Professor of Engineering at New York University, succeeded him, on a short-term basis, as Curator of Shipbuilding & Navigation.  He seems to have written the short article about the exhibit of model ships, “Exhibits Show Development of Water Transportation,” that was published in Marine Review.

THE Museum of Science and Industry, founded by Julius Rosenwald in Chicago, has recognized the importance of water transportation as an agent of civilization by providing approximately 22,000 square feet of its floor space for depicting the developments of shipbuilding and navigation. This space is being divided into twelve sections, as follows: Primitive craft, evolution of the sail ship, evolution of the merchant steamer, development of lake and ocean freighters, inland water transportation, shipbuilding, development of ship propulsion, ship interiors and interior equipment, deck and miscellaneous accessories, navigation, marine industries, pleasure craft, yachts, etc.[2]

In the presentation of over 225 models which will comprise the various exhibits, modern ideas in museum setting will be carried out to the full extent. Many of the exhibits will be so arranged that they may be operated by the visitor. For instance, a model of the six-masted schooner William L. Douglas will be mounted on a marine railway which will travel back and forth so that the visitor may see just how vessels are hauled out on such railways for under-water repairs. Likewise a floating dry dock will rise and lift a steamship out of the water or lower it to floating position. Models of various life saving devices will likewise be operated by the visitor and numerous dioramas will educate him in the differences between the methods of towing on the Mississippi river and the deep water towing along the Atlantic coast.[3]

There will be a full-sized replica of a small sailing ship on which the visitor may go aboard to see how the sailor lives surrounded by the various equipment to be found in the fo’castle. There will be a pilot house in which the visitor may simulate the steering of a ship by turning the steering wheel which will cause reactions similar to those of a ship responding to the helm.[4]

The marine section of the Museum of Science and Industry is under the curatorship of Major Carlos de Zafra, formerly consulting naval architect with the late Charles L. Seabury, who has had considerable experience in maritime displays and who has secured a leave of absence from the engineering department of the New York university to give his entire time to the planning of this section of the museum.[5]

 

On Wednesday, April 22, 1936, Major Carlos de Zafra, Professor of Engineering at New York University and former Curator of Shipbuilding & Navigation at the M.S.I., delivered a speech entitled “Public Education through the New Technique of the Industrial Museum” for the Andiron Club of New York.  In it, he covered the Musée des Arts et Métiers (Museum of Arts and Crafts) of the Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers (National Conservatory of Arts and Crafts) in Paris, the Deutsches Museum, and the M.S.I.

On Wednesday, June 11, 1958, the M.S.I. announced that when the U.S. Navy exhibit (that would ultimately be called Seapower) opened, which occurred on Friday, July 3, 1959, the M.S.I. would simultaneously open Corridor of Model Ships.  On Tuesday, February 4, 1964, during the annual dinner meeting at the M.S.I. of the Chicago Council of the Navy League, Assistant Secretary of the Navy Kenneth E. BeLieu (1914-2001) and Orville Taylor, Chairman of the A. Montgomery Ward Foundation, unveiled Ships Through the Ages.  On Wednesday, February 5, 1964, Ships Through the Ages opened to the public.  By 1969, the exhibit was known as the Hall of Ships (or perhaps informally called the Hall of Ships), as indicated by a press release about Pure Oil spokesmodels being photographed at the helm in the exhibit.[6]

In January of 2015, the M.S.I. began to plan changes for Ships Through the Ages.  Subsequently, in June of 2016, the exhibit temporarily closed down so that the exhibit could undergo renovations and the individual model ships could undergo conservation.  A team of conservators from Lipras Lipriani, the same firm that recently treated Colleen Moore’s Fairy Castle, scientifically cleaned and conserved the model ships. 

Fifteen model ships were added to the exhibit, ten of them custom-built models, which brought the number of model ships in the exhibit to forty-three.   Model Builders, Inc. built four new dioramas intended to showcase important developments in the history of shipping.  Scenic artist Sean Murtha created the backdrop paintings for these four new dioramas.

Ravenswood Studio renovated the popular hands-on sailing ship deck to its original beauty.  Children and adults alike can take the ship’s wheel.  Two 19th Century figureheads from the prows of ships have been cleaned and returned to the exhibit, as well.  The renovated exhibit now includes a racing section, including Oracle Team U.S.A.’s high-tech catamaran from America’s Cup.  Energy efficient LED lighting that illuminates the model ships to enhance their beauty was installed.  A dedicated M.S.I. exhibit team developed the storyline and graphics.

“Our goal is to inspire each guest by tapping into their curiosity to look closer at the details of these magnificent ships, and learn more about this globally connected system,” stated John Llewellyn, Senior Exhibit Developer/Designer at the Museum of Science and Industry.  ‘The Ships Gallery is a historic favorite of our guests, and this contemporary upgrade will give the new generation the opportunity to appreciate these model ships for many more years to come.”

      Ships Gallery, presented by Captain Dave Truitt, officially opened to the public on Thursday, November 10, 2016.  The exhibit is located on the Lower Level of the West Gallery.  It is covered by Museum Entry (general admission) tickets.

Ships_Conservation_0196

Figure 1 Credit: J.B. Spector, Museum of Science and Industry Caption: The new Ships Gallery, presented by Captain David Truitt, uses highly-detailed model ships to demonstrate the evolution of ship design and construction.

Ships_Conservation_0148Figure 2 Credit: J.P. Spector, Museum of Science and Industry Caption: A conservation team from Litas Lipriani performed conservation work on the model ships over a five-month-long period before the Ships Gallery reopened to the public on November 10, 2016.  Here, we see Inez Litas at work on Tuesday, July 19, 2016.

Ships_Conservation_021Figure 3 Credit: J.P. Spector, Museum of Science and Industry Caption: This is one of the model ships undergoing conservation on Thursday, June 16, 2016.

Ships_Conservation_030Figure 4 Credit: J.P. Spector, Museum of Science and Industry Caption: This is another picture of the same model ship being transported through the Lower Level of the East Gallery on Thursday, June 16, 2016.

Ships_Conservation_0083Figure 5 Credit: J.P. Spector, Museum of Science and Industry Caption: This is one of the model ships undergoing conservation on Tuesday, July 19, 2016.  Note that this is a steamship with rigging for sails.

Ships_Conservation_0173Figure 6 Credit: J.P. Spector, Museum of Science and Industry Caption: This is one of the model ships undergoing conservation on Tuesday, July 19, 2016.  From this vantage point, we can see the smokestacks, the rigging for sails, lifeboats, and the deck.

Ships_Conservation_0145Figure 7 Credit: J.P. Spector, Museum of Science and Industry Caption: Here, we see Inez Litas conducting conservation work on a model sailing boat Tuesday, July 19, 2016.

Ships_Conservation_0136Figure 8 Credit: J.P. Spector, Museum of Science and Industry Caption: A conservation team from Litas Lipriani performed conservation work on the model ships over a five-month-long period before the Ships Gallery reopened to the public on Thursday, November 10, 2016.

Ships_Conservation_0154Figure 9 Credit: J.P. Spector, Museum of Science and Industry Caption: This is a model sailing ship that underwent conservation, as seen on Tuesday, July 19, 2016.

Ships_ConservationGallery_064Figure 10 Credit: J.P. Spector, Museum of Science and Industry Caption: This is the main mast of a model sailing ship, as seen on Wednesday, June 22, 2016.

Ships_ConservationGallery_042Figure 11 Credit: J.B. Spector, Museum of Science and Industry Caption: The new Ships Gallery includes custom-built dioramas that places each model ship in an appropriate setting.

Ships_Conservation_0156Figure 12 Credit: J.B. Spector, Museum of Science and Industry Caption: The new Ships Gallery displays forty-three scale model ships. Mr. Spector took the photograph on Tuesday, July 19, 2016.  This is a cross-section of a steamship that was a passenger ship.

Ship Thru the Ages exhibit @ the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago
Ship Thru the Ages exhibit @ the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago

Figure 13 Credit: J.B. Spector, Museum of Science and Industry Caption: This diorama depicts the first fleet of Christopher Columbus, La Pinta, the Santa Maria, and the Niña.  Mr. Spector took this photograph on Tuesday, October 18, 2016.

Ship Thru the Ages exhibit @ the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago
Ship Thru the Ages exhibit @ the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago

Figure 14 Credit: J.B. Spector, Museum of Science and Industry Caption: This is a model of the Mayflower.  Mr. Spector took this photograph on Tuesday, October 18, 2016.

Ship Thru the Ages exhibit @ the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago
Ships Thru the Ages exhibit @ the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago

Figure 15 Credit: J.B. Spector, Museum of Science and Industry Caption: This is a model of the three-masted sailing ship Sovereign of the Seas.  Mr. Spector took this photograph on Tuesday, October 18, 2016.

Ship Thru the Ages exhibit @ the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago
Ships Thru the Ages exhibit @ the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago

Figure 16 Credit: J.B. Spector, Museum of Science and Industry Caption: On top is a model of the banana boat Santa Marta.  She was part of the United Fruit Company’s Great White Fleet.[7] This is how the Santa Marta would have looked around 1909.  She was a 394-foot-long vessel that steamed between the United States of America, Central American states, and South American states.  On the bottom is a model of the packet riverboat Marieville.  A stern-wheeler, she carried passengers and cargo along the Mississippi River from St. Louis to New Orleans.  This is roughly how she looked in 1886.  She was 193 feet, six inches long.  The model was a gift of Arthur C. Allyn.  Mr. Spector took this photograph on Thursday, October 20, 2016.

Ship Thru the Ages exhibit @ the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago
The City of New York in the Newport News Graving Dock #2                                                             Ships Thru the Ages exhibit @ the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago

Figure 17 Credit: J.B. Spector, Museum of Science and Industry Caption: The “Hauling Out” diorama depicts The City of New York in the Newport News Graving Dock #2.  Mr. Spector took this photograph on Thursday, October 20, 2016.

Ship Thru the Ages exhibit @ the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago
The City of New York in the Newport News Graving Dock #2                                                             Ships Thru the Ages exhibit @ the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago

Figure 18 Credit: J.B. Spector, Museum of Science and Industry Caption: This another view of the Museum of Science and Industry’s model of The City of New York in the Newport News Graving Dock #2.  Mr. Spector took this photograph on Thursday, October 20, 2016.

Ship Thru the Ages exhibit @ the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago
Ships Thru the Ages exhibit @ the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago

Figure 19 Credit: J.B. Spector, Museum of Science and Industry Caption: This is a model of the N.O.A.A.’s Ronald H. Browne.  The largest ship in the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s fleet, she is a global-class oceanographic and atmospheric research platform.  Mr. Spector took this photograph on Tuesday, October 18, 2016.

Ships Thru the Ages Exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago
Guests in the Ships Thru the Ages Exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago

Figure 20 Credit: J.P. Spector, Museum of Science and Industry Caption: The ladies on the left are looking at the diorama “Modern Day Exploration,” which includes a model of the N.O.A.A.’s Ronald H. Browne.  The couple in the background, on the right, is looking at the models of La Pinta, the Santa Maria, and the Niña.  Notably, Mr. Spector took this picture on Thursday, November 3, 2016, the date the Museum of Science and Industry announced that the Ships Gallery, presented by Captain Dave Truitt, would officially re-open on Thursday, November 10, 2016.

Ships Thru the Ages Exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago
Guests int the Ships Thru the Ages Exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago

Figure 21 Credit: J.P. Spector, Museum of Science and Industry Caption: The ladies on the left are looking at the model of the N.O.A.A.’s Ronald H. Browne in the diorama “Modern Day Exploration.”  The couple on the right is looking at a model of the Mayflower. Mr. Spector took this picture on Thursday, November 3, 2016.

Ships Thru the Ages Exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago
Guests int the Ships Thru the Ages Exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago

Figure 22 Credit: J.P. Spector, Museum of Science and Industry Caption: This mother and son are looking at a model of a three-masted whaler with a skiff sailing beside her.  Mr. Spector took this picture on Thursday, November 3, 2016.

Ships Thru the Ages Exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago
Guests int the Ships Thru the Ages Exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago

Figure 23 Credit: J.P. Spector, Museum of Science and Industry Caption: This mother and daughter are looking at a model of a two-masted sailing ship.  Mr. Spector took this picture on Thursday, November 3, 2016.

Ships Thru the Ages Exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago
Guests int the Ships Thru the Ages Exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago

Figure 24 Credit: J.P. Spector, Museum of Science and Industry Caption: These children are looking at a model of a two-masted sailing ship, the Falmouth.  She was a 109-foot-long East Indiaman which the British East India Company sailed between Great Britain and the East Indies.  This is how she appeared around 1752.  Mr. Spector took this picture on Thursday, November 3, 2016.

Ships Thru the Ages Exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago
Guests int the Ships Thru the Ages Exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago

Figure 25 Credit: J.P. Spector, Museum of Science and Industry Caption: This mother and daughter are playing helmsmen with the steering wheel of a ship.  Ravenswood Studio restored the deck and steering wheel.  Mr. Spector took this picture on Thursday, November 3, 2016.

 

This year, the Museum of Science and Industry is celebrating the 75th anniversary of its first opening ceremony, during Chicago’s second World’s Fair, A Century of Progress International Exposition (1933-34).  It opened in three stages between 1933 and 1940.  The building that houses the Museum of Science and Industry, is the Palace of Fine Arts.  Designed by Charles B. Atwood (1849-1896), it was built to house a temporary art museum for Chicago’s first World’s Fair, the World’s Columbian Exposition (1893), and afterwards it housed the Columbian Field Museum, which evolved into The Field Museum of Natural History, until 1920, when it moved into its new quarters, where it opened in 1921.  Consequently, this year the Museum of Science and Industry is celebrating the 125th anniversary of the building and The Field Museum of Natural History is celebrating the 125th anniversary of its foundation.

The Museum of Science and Industry is open from 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. most days throughout the year.  It has extended hours during peak periods.  There are only two days when it is closed: Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.  The Museum of Science and Industry is located at the northeastern corner of Jackson Park in the Hyde Park community area on the South Side of Chicago.  It is at the southwest corner of 57th Street and Lake Shore Drive.  The address is 5700 South Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, Illinois 60637.  The phone number is (773) 684-1414 and the Website is www.msichicago.org.

END NOTES

[1] Please note that at the time Waldemar Kaempffert began to bring Julius Rosenwald’s vision into reality, he translated the Deutsches Museum von Meisterwerken der Naturwissenschaft und Technik as “German Museum of Masterworks of Science and Technology” but today the institution calls itself the German Museum of Masterpieces of Science and Technology” in English-language version of its Website.

[2] “Exhibits Show Development of Water Transportation,” Marine Review, November, 1931, p. 63

[3] “Exhibits Show Development of Water Transportation,” Marine Review, November, 1931, p. 63

[4] “Exhibits Show Development of Water Transportation,” Marine Review, November, 1931, p. 63

[5] “Exhibits Show Development of Water Transportation,” Marine Review, November, 1931, p. 63

[6] Memo dated February 28, 1969 from Roger Lone to D.M. MacMaster

Museum of Science and Industry, Collections, Institutional Archives, Press Releases & PR Materials (late 1960s-mid1970s), file 1969 Annual Report Data

[7] The United Fruit Company’s Great White Fleet is not to be confused with the U.S Navy’s Great White Fleet, which circumnavigated the world between 1907 and 1909 under the order of President Theodore Roosevelt to establish the U.S.A. was an ascendant world power.

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