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Navigating the Thomson Collection of Ship Models

August 16th, 2011

homson Ship Collection Photographer: Sean Weaver Copyright Art Gallery of Ontario
Head down the first staircase you see as you enter the AGO and you’ll uncover a collection with some incredible stories to tell. You might feel like you’re descending into darkness, but the dim lighting is just to protect the 130 incredibly detailed ship models housed there, part of the Thomson Collection.

Unique in Canada and considered to be one of the finest private collections of ship models in the world, the Thomson Collection of Ship Models is part of one of the most significant acts of philanthropy in Canadian history. The models span 350 years, combining exquisite craftsmanship and maritime technological and cultural history.

This series delves into the stories behind the ship models, the ships that inspired them and the people that created them. To find more about visiting the gallery, please visit

The sinking of Gunilda: 100th Anniversary

On August 1911 the steam yacht Gunilda sank beneath the surface of Lake Superior in Northern Ontario. Today, the wreck is famous amongst divers as being one of the world’s most intact and interesting freshwater wrecks. View fascinating dive photos, explore the Gunilda model and learn more about America’s Gilded Age. Story coming soon

From steam power to steampunk: The history of steam
The invention of the steam-powered engine changed life forever, triggering the industrial revolution and giving people the power to travel previously unimaginable distances. Trace a path from ‘father of the steam engine’ James Watt to steam engines and steam ships and on to the Hollywood depictions of the steamboat era using objects in the Thomson Collection as your guide.  Story coming soon

Tintin on the high seas
Hergé’s classic character from children’s literature, Tintin, gets a new lease of life this Christmas when The Adventure of Tintin: The Mystery of the Unicorn is released in cinemas. Central to the plot of is mysterious model ship The Unicorn. Learn about the significance of model ships like these and see examples from the collection from the same era.  Story coming soon

The Tale of Mimi and Toutou
During World War One an eccentric British naval officer called Geoffrey Spicer-Simpson was tasked with seizing Lake Tanganyika in Central Africa from German control. He was given command of two small gunboats, which he named Mimi and Toutou (“cat” and “dog” in French). Read about their incredible journey and then come to the gallery to see our scale model of Mimi.  Story coming soon

To find out more about The Thomson Collection of Ship Models you can listen to our podcast, narrated by National Maritime Museum Curator Simon Stephens. Click here to book your tickets and visit the AGO.


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