The Addison Gallery's famed model ship collection, permanently installed in the building's lower level, consisted originally of 24 works commissioned by the museum's founder, Thomas Cochran, to document four centuries of American history. Each model was created at a scale of 1/4 inch to 1 foot, enabling viewers to understand at a glance how American sailing ships evolved over the centuries. The inclusion of the ship models in the Addison's collection is an example of Cochran's commitment to presenting American art in the broadest sense, highlighting the skill of the artisan as well as the talent of the artist in American cultural history.
In 2016, for the first time in nearly 80 years, a new ship model was added to the collection and installed in the museum's lower level. Wanderer, created by Yinka Shonibare in 2006, is a model of the 1857 pleasure schooner turned slave ship.
Models of American Sailing Ships