In 1817 the Ministry of Maritime Affairs set up a model room for the ship and technical scale models that were used for building and equipping naval ships and instructing their crews. This superb collection of professional models and objects (app. 1600 works) was transferred to the Rijksmuseum between 1883 and 1889. About 200 objects, mostly ship models, were added later.
The collection contains primarily 19th-century objects from the Netherlands, as well as pieces from England, France and the United States. The earliest objects date from the 17th and 18th century, such as the more than four-metre long model of the William Rex, a ship of the line from 1698, and several models of Dutch East Indiamen.
These and other objects entered the collection while the model room was still in existence because they illustrated the Netherlands’ rich maritime history. Accordingly, paintings, photographs, captured weapons and flags are also found in the Rijksmuseum, including the carved stern decoration of the Royal Charles, the English flagship taken by Michiel de Ruyter during the passage to Chatham in 1667.