The catalogue of the Dutch Navy Model Collection is a museum catalogue and a collection catalogue. As such, its primary target is the museum public and other museums. Museums have a varied set of tasks and a collection catalogue must try to provide as much information as possible for the performance of those tasks.
The primary task of a museum is the conservation and maintenance of its collections. Proper identification is a first condition: to manage a collection, one has to know what it contains. Five years ago the Navy Model Collection was in a frightful state of neglect, comparable to a gigantic, incomplete and damaged jigsaw puzzle of which the face had been rubbed out. All the information on the objects was housed outside the museum, but no one knew where. The cataloguing - out of necessity - evolved into an important research and documentation project.
The second most important task of a museum is the exhibition and publication of its collections. To do so effectively, both for permanent or temporary exhibitions, as many angles of approach as possible need to be used. We have tried to provide multiple historical references: thus most objects can now be placed in more than one context. We do not, however, claim to have been exhaustive in this respect.
Thirdly museums are also, and this cannot be stressed enough, research institutions, actively doing research themselves and helping historians and other researchers as much as they can. This is also necessary both for adequate conservation and for making exhibitions. Therefore in this catalogue great pains have been taken to provide researchers with leads for further research, such as archival references, literature, etc.
We must emphasize, however, that the catalogue has been the product of only four years of work, plus one year for corrections. It has not been possible to cover all possible angles of research in that time. In some cases even straightforward lines of research, such as certain patents, could not be checked in the limited amount of time that was available. The time limit was imposed by the kind though not limitless sponsoring by the Royal Netherlands Navy. Moreover, cataloguing and documenting produced a snowball effect, uncovering more and more lines of research as the project went along: we are only beginning to grasp the possibilities of the Navy Model Collection.
The catalogue thus reflects only the progress of our research at this date: given time, much more can and will be uncovered. We deemed publication at this stage necessary to encourage other, similar projects and hope to stimulate the publication of more sources, which will in turn help further research on our side. The catalogue should therefore not be considered as a a complete and exhaustive product, but as a tool for research and to stimulate further investigation.
For the general reader we have tried to combine a high standard of technical detail with a readable style and full illustration. Only the reader and user can judge to what extent we have been successful in these aims.
The catalogue consists of three main parts: the catalogue entries, the indexes and the bibliography.
1. The catalogue entries.
The basic structure of the average catalogue entry is as follows:
General title of the object:
Name, place and date
Type of model
b. The sequence of the catalogue entries
The main object of the cataloguing project was to reconstruct the collection in its original 19th-century state: as a complex, heteromorphic collection reflecting the issues, concerns and growth of a largely technical organisation (the Navy). To preserve the historical integrity of such a collection, in our view the original sequence is the only appropriate one.
From the museological (including the administrative) point of view, restructuring a collection is one of the worst calamities that can happen to it, because past relations get blurred and vital information is always lost. As such Obreen's systematic catalogue of 1858 (praiseworthy though the effort may have been), combined with the loss of the original handwritten inventory of the first 943 numbers, in the end resulted in a net loss of information. For instance the objects related to Asmus' journey to France in 1797 are scattered throughout the collection, as are those related to J.C. Rijk's voyage to England and the USA in 1825: Obreen was not conscious of their relation and classified them according to his own approach. Because the original pre-1858 inventory was lost, we are stuck with Obreen's sequence of 1858 for the first 943 catalogue numbers. Yet we must be infinitely grateful that we still have his catalogue, or we would have had nothing at all. And, honour to whom honour is due, Obreen does supply us with much more information than could ever have been supplied by the original inventory. However, the reader can only reconstruct the historical relations in this series via the indexes and references. For the period after 1858 we do have the original inventory, which gives us information on provenance (sales, etc.) and sometimes archival references, but which also makes it possible to deduce information from the order of entry into the collection: for instance MC 951, 953 and 954 are known to be related to J.P. Asmus, which makes it probable that MC 952, almost certainly coming from the same source (one of his descendants), is also related to him.
The original sequence - or as original as we could get - has therefore been adhered to:
c. The transfer to the Rijksmuseum and alternative numberings
The collection was transferred to the Rijksmuseum in 1883-1889 (negotiations started as early as 1876). There were two shipments, the first in 1887, the second in 1889. The first shipment was entered into the inventory of the 'Nederlandsch Museum voor Geschiedenis en Kunst' (the Department of Dutch History and Art (1885-1927)): they encompass the numbers NM 5900 to 6006. Of the second shipment only the transfer papers with their lists survive: these objects therefore have no official Rijksmuseum inventory numbers. This is also one of the main reasons why in this catalogue we have adhered to the original Navy numbering.
The paintings, which today are in the care of the Paintings Department, were catalogued in 1976 in the Rijksmuseum catalogue of paintings, All the Paintings...; these catalogue numbers are cited as RMS-numbers.
A large number of the flags, initially valued for their decorative function only, had never been inventoried and were 'rediscovered' in 1927 when the Department of Dutch History and Art split up into the departments of Applied Arts and Dutch History. They were entered into the inventory of the Department of Dutch History and given NG-numbers (NG stands for 'Nederlandse Geschiedenis', Dutch History), but their provenance had by then been forgotten: our reconstruction of their origin back to the Navy transfers of 1887-1889 was based largely on the length of the series involved. The NG-numbers are specified after the MC catalogue number. The flags were also catalogued in the 1977 catalogue of flags (VAN DEN BRANDHOF 1977), whose catalogue numbers can be found in the references.
d. Transfers elsewhere
The Navy did not transfer the entire collection to the Rijksmuseum in 1887-1889. The ethnological section was transferred to the Ethnographic Museum in Leiden, where we were able to trace a good portion of these models (RMVL-numbers). Some nautical and scientific instruments were transferred to the Meteorological Office (KNMI), which we were not able to cover in the course of this cataloguing project, and some were kept by the Verificator of Nautical Instruments of the Navy. A good portion of the latter were later lent to the Museum of Physical Sciences Boerhaave in Leiden and to the Nederlands Scheepvaartmuseum (Dutch Maritime Museum) in Amsterdam, and we have been able to identify a number of them (BOERHAAVE-numbers and NSM-numbers). Some models were never transferred at all and could not be traced. As with all such major operations, mistakes were made during the transfers, which we discovered when we found models in the Rijksmuseum which according to the transfer papers had not been transferred at all.
e. A note on the ethnic models
As stated above, the ethnic objects were all transferred to the Ethnographic Museum in Leiden. The collection was entered in a series with one inventory number (RMVL 351) with subnumbering.
The origin of the models is only partly know. Two shipments by J.J. Melvill van Carnbee in 1823 and 1826 are the core of the first series 892-934. However, this series also has some models of other origin. Melvill van Carnbee supplied lists of his models and the models bear old numbers, but these only rarely tally. We can see that in 1858 Obreen struggled with Melvill van Carnbee's information and the numbering is confused. With the transfer to the Ethnographic Museum fresh mistakes were made and some models were re-interpreted. Confusion increased. During his years in the Indonesian Archipelago Melvill van Carnbee was accompanied by Lieutenenat H.A. Karnebeek, who made sketches of the models. Whether these were made in the East Indies or after his return to the Netherlands cannot be established. These sketches were donated to the Maritime Museum in Amsterdam by one of Karnebeek's descendants (NSM S782(2-44)). The series of sketches is not complete, and moreover some models were sketched several times. MC-numbers were inscribed on some of the sketches either by Karnebeek himself (but then after 1858), or by his heir or by some one from the Maritime or Ethnographic Museum. Again this numbering is confused, sometimes double or contradictory. At probably yet a later stage some of the drawings were inscribed on the back with RMVL-351 numbers. It has proved impossible to solve this puzzle. We have therefore chosen to adhere to our own reconstruction and ignore the numbers on the sketches.
2. The indexes
We emphasize that the catalogue is intended as a work of reference and a tool for research. As explained above, we had our reasons to avoid a systematic structure for the main body of the catalogue, to which we may add that no systematisation can cover all eventual lines of research. The indexes provide the main access to the catalogue. The indexes also provided a very practical reason for adhering to the numerical order: where now we have a simple keyword - catalogue number concordance for the index, restructuring would have upset the order of the catalogue numbers and required references to page numbers or categories plus catalogue numbers. One way to circumvent this would have been to use a new consecutive numbering for the catalogue, but we considered this unwise seeing that the catalogue numbers will tend to become the main numbering in future, leading to all sorts of administrative complications when different numbering systems are used simultaneously and blurring the chronological order even further.
We do not claim that the systematic and alphabetical subject indexes are exhaustive: they were handmade and are therefore neither faultless not complete. The reader is invited to supplement the indexes along the lines of his own research. In these indexes we have restricted ourselves to an average of two keywords for each catalogue number.
The indexes of persons and ship's names have been kept as simple as possible. Ships changing names or rate, being converted into other vessels, several ships of the same name, etc., made an accurate index both difficult to make and confusing to consult: we therefore decided not to make such distinctions at the index level, but simply to use the names as point of departure, irrespective of whether they refer to one single or to several different ships or whether different names refer to one single ship. The references at the bottom of the catalogue entries provide the reader with further search facilities.
Persons mentioned at one time as a model maker, at other times as the designer or simply as historically related, also made such distinctions in the index of persons confusing rather than helpful: only the name has therefore been used.
The index to geographical provenances is primarily intended for foreign users of the catalogue.
A combined use of indexes and references will yield the best results for queries. Again we must emphasize that we have not been omniscient: the catalogue only reflects the present state of our knowledge.
3. The bibliography
For brevity's sake the references to literature in the catalogue entries have been limited to the name(s) of the author(s) (when not known, an abbreviated title) and the date of publication. There is a strict one-to-one relation between these references and the bibliography, which is ordered alphabetically. The bibliography is headed by the list of abbreviations, which are also used in the other references.
Notice for CD-ROM and WWW Users
The CD-ROM and WWW version of the catalogue offers both enhanced search-facilities and specific problems to the user. We must forewarn the user that the architecture of both the text and the software may result in unforeseen query-results. This is due to two major causes: the first is that multiple technical jargons have been used. Homonyms are therefore unavoidable. A hoist of a flag is something quite different from the common hoist in the meaning of a lifting-apparatus, but both will be found when searching the word 'hoist'. The second cause is due to the main architecture of the software, which is based on a bilingual text. In word-queries the software will not distinguish between the Dutch or the English version. This may result in search-results which may not seem correct in one language. For instance the word 'been' in Dutch means leg, where in English it is the past participle of the verb 'to be'. When searching for 'been' the query-result will provide both hits, even though the word may not appear in the language-version you are currently using.