In 1883, the U.S. Navy's Bureau of Construction and Repair began a policy of constructing and retaining contemporary exhibition-type models of most new classes of warships. Since 1942 the program has been located at the David Taylor Model Basin in West Bethesda, Maryland. Under the auspices of the Bureau's successor, the Naval Sea Systems Command, the collection has grown to about 3,000 models.
The Department of the Navy Ship Model Program is administered by the Office of the Curator of Models at Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division Headquarters, West Bethesda, Maryland.
Our staff is composed of a curator and three ship model conservators. We have a capacious workshop/ laboratory outfitted for ship model research, conservation, and construction. Most of the 3,000 models in the collection are loaned to other institutions for display and few are in storage at the Model Basin. We maintain paper, photographic, and electronic records concerning the condition, origin, history, and location of models in the collection.
The Ship Model Program is jointly sponsored by the Naval Sea Systems Command;the Navy History and Heritage Command; and the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division.
Our program does not have a museum dedicated to displaying our models. Models located at our West Bethesda, Maryland office are chiefly those undergoing conservation or in transit. Relatively few are in storage. The Navy Museum in Washington, D.C., displays the largest numbers of our models. However, many other museums nationwide have borrowed and currently display elements of the collection.