The old adage, “a photo is worth a thousand words” is certainly true. Even if in today’s world of computerised editing and software that can manipulate images almost seamlessly makes telling truth from fiction a little more difficult and in some cases impossible. Still, photographs of historic events and things often provide a tangible link to the past and give us the opportunity to understand the sense of place, style of clothing and social importance of things past. Who hasn’t spent hours looking over old family photographs trying to imagine what life would have been like back in the day?
Here at the Ballina Naval and Maritime Museum we care for a large number of historic photographs and sketches which are often the only link to times past. While these images hold lots of information, they are by their nature two-dimensional and so lack the ability to satisfy our wish to see things in the round.
Fortunately for visitors to the museum we also have an extensive collection of ship’s models which allow for a detailed understand of how things were built, how mechanical aspects interact and give a sense of scale to the events and lives of those onboard. Beside the technical detail many of the models are works of art in their own right and could happily fill a space in the finest of galleries.
With 0ne hundred and ninety- five large models and fifty smaller objects the Ballina Naval and Maritime Museum is credited as having the largest collection of ships models currently on display anywhere in Australia. Enough to satisfy the curiosity of our many interstate and overseas visitors. In fact, many of our visitors from further afield often tell us that they have travelled to Ballina specifically to see a particular model.
The attraction of our model collection can be personal or professional. For many who visit us it is a family connection with a ship. Perhaps someone close served on a particular vessel in times of war or while in the navy or merchant marine. It could be a ship that brought their forebears to Australia in search of a new life or perhaps to revive the memory of a great holiday or significant life event. Or it could be to learn a little more about the maritime history of the Port of Ballina and the impact of shipping to those living on the north coast of NSW prior to the days of highway and airports.
Some of our visitors are hobbyists who have a keen interest in maritime history and enjoy the challenge of constructing models and want to see the work of other enthusiasts. With a range of vessels spanning the years from early sail to contemporary shipping there is always something to satisfy the curiosity and lessons to be learned.
A s a casual visitor it is sometimes difficult to imagine the hundreds and hundreds of hours of dedication and perseverance that go into the construction of ships models. While some are available as kits almost ready to go, many are constructed entirely from scratch. Such a labour of love requires the authentic reproduction of every detail from hull to rigging and everything in between.
Among the largest models is a beautifully detailed Bismark of WW2 fame. This model is nearly three metres in length, is radio controlled and detailed to the point that the cannon can be fired. Ranking among the smallest but no less valuable are miniatures made by engineering works and presented to the owners of full -size vessels under construction. Also featured are many of the early ships which contributed to life in Ballina and along the Richmond River.
With ownership of the models comes the responsibility to care and maintain them which falls on our volunteer staff many of who are keen model markers themselves. We have been very fortune over the years to have had a number of model builders who generously donated to the museum. We also take pride in housing and displaying models which came to us a gift or bequest over the years.
The value of our model ships is just not in their detail and aesthetics but also in the stories that they tell. Each ship, its crew and passengers have a story to tell about a significant event in the past. Drop in soon and satisfy your sense of curiosity and marvel at the skill required to tell these stories in 3D.