Connected \\ April 12, 2017
Raising the Queen Elizabeth
The model, billed as the largest model ever made of the largest liner at the time, came to PEM in 1970 and for many years was on view with PEM’s classic figureheads in East India Marine Hall. It even spent some years hidden behind walls in the Dodge gallery, since, at 22 feet, the stately length cannot fit into the freight elevator. Hand-carved from a single piece of mahogany, the QE model was commissioned by Cunard to furnish their palatial offices on 5th Avenue in New York City.
According to our records, “The intention…was to awe the viewers with the power and magnificence of the vessel and to entice them to book passage aboard” the actual Queen Elizabeth.
“I was there that day. It was freezing,” remembers curatorial scholar George Schwartz. “Every time it moves, it’s an operation.”
QE model scale. Photo by Kathy Tarantola.
The model came to PEM with the help of the late Francis L. “Pen” Higginson, a former museum trustee, frequent transatlantic ocean liner traveler (who made more than 60 crossings) and collector of ocean liner and steamship ephemera.
The company who made the QE coined it ‘a close up view of a mighty project,” says Schwartz
The Queen Elizabeth model is the apex of ocean liner models. Not just in scale, but attention to detail.
On a warm spring morning, the QE model, with its 900 handcrafted fittings, was carefully hoisted on equipment and slipped through a 53-inch wide window into the special exhibition gallery by a crew expert in their precision, much like the 12-man crew who spent thousands of hours carving the model.
We realized ‘oh right,’ it isn’t going to fit on the elevator,” said Brittany Minton from the collections department. “It’s all creative problem solving.
Just before the QE’s move, two other wooden crates containing ship models from the Mariners Museum in Virginia also glided through the Putnam Gallery to be hoisted into the small window. A 21-foot model of the SS United States will soon suspend from the ceiling, while a second massive model of the ship will hang on the wall.
“Please pardon our appearance.” Photos by Dinah Cardin.
Two giant metal words, 24-inches high, OCEAN and TERMINAL, moved with their handlers through the Atrium, to greet museum goers from the Atrium’s bridge. These objects came from a private collector in Connecticut, where they hung on the outside of his house and are from the exterior of Ocean Terminal, Berth 102, in Southampton, UK, made about 1950.
Letters from the exterior of Ocean Terminal, Berth 102, Southampton, United Kingdom, about 1950, steel. Collection of Stephen S. Lash. Photo by Bob Packert.
And, finally, the QE model, with its delicate handrails, lifeboats and tiny waving British and American flags was lifted way above our heads.