The historic model collection on Holmen was founded in 1670 at the same time as shipbuilding was moved to Bremerholmen. The making of models was neither new nor epoch-making. Presumably these models have existed as long as there have been naval ships.

After the model collection was established the models were gathered in the storehouse on Holmen, to which a model workshop was later added. We know for a fact that from this time on ship models have been produced as part of the shipbuilding process.

In 1735 the collection had grown to such an extent that larger premises had to be found. It was intendant de marine Frederik Danneskiold-Samsøe, who had a keen eye for the technical, documentary and historical value of the collection, who in the newly furnished main storage house by Holmens Kanal, established a room for the model collection. In connection with the moving of the models a list of the items in the collection was made. From this list it appears that at this point in time the collection consisted of 102 models.

In 1745 the collection was enlarged considerably, when a large part of the models previously kept at the Royal Danish Kunstkammer was given to the Navy. This collection consisted of a total of 32 naval ships and smaller vessels, five models of pumps and pumping apparatus as well as three models of dredges. When the School of Naval Architecture was established in 1757 a separate room for the model collection was set up in the frame-attic-building at Nyholm. To this was attached a model workshop for the production of models to be used in the school and in the shipbuilding process. The Danish Navy thus had two independent collections at its disposal.

In 1795 the collection was badly hit by the great fire which had its source at Gammelholm. More than 120 models were lost on this occasion, most of them belonging to the oldest part of the collection. Opinion differs as to whether the English also made free with the model collection in 1807. Several factors, however, indicate that the part of the collection, which was kept at Nyholm, was hit hard by theft. After this the collection led an unsettled life and did not find a permanent home until the Royal Danish Naval Museum was established at Christianshavn in 1989.

The oldest model in the present collection dates back to 1669. According to tradition this model comes from the Church of Holmen. The question therefore is whether the models produced before 1690 have served any purpose at all in the construction process? Two of these early models have been made by Francis Sheldon, an Englishman who was called to Copenhagen in order to assist with the shipbuilding. The main stress here is laid on the decorative elements and these models must therefore be characterized as pure presentation models. During Chief constructor Ole Judichærs time in office, however, models were made of practically every large ship. This applies to his successors as well.

The regulations, which were drawn up in connection with Judichær´s taking office in 1729, explicitly stated that it was his duty to make a model after every approbated constructional drawing. The regulations are interesting both because they are the first of their kind and because they provide good insight in the intended use of the models. In 1729 the concept of the model had taken final shape. Henceforth a model could be defined as a wooden three-dimensional representation of the ship, which was built in scale and which was to be used as a practical tool for the building of a naval ship.

It seems, however, that the model lost its original significance in the course of the 1730´s. Greater importance was then attached to the constructional drawing, which took on a technical and administrative as well as a legal significance. The constructional model was no longer the principal element in the construction process. After this time the model served primarily as a three-dimensional statement of current constructional principles. Secondarily, it served an educational purpose in the training of construction officers. Finally, it can be seen as a visualization of technically complicated construction- and joining principles.