Displaying Models

A better title might be Not Displaying Models. I know I'm not the only one who finds it much harder to know where to put models once you've bought them, than to actually acquire them. My last couple of buys sit in their boxes right in front of me as i write this, only opened once in the two months I've had them. There is nowhere to put them. The others sit in their boxes under beds and above wardrobes. My only large display cabinet has a black cloth draped around it all day, which does a great job of stopping the sunlight getting in, but its hard to see through black cloth. Buying ready-builts is fun in that you need only time and patience and money, the rest is done for you — they arrive and it's on to the next one. With kit sets, and with displaying ready-builts, the arrival is only the beginning and everything in the way of thought and work lies in front of you.

I'm forced into thinking about how best to display what I have. It's not easy. I'm allergic to mental challenges. Living outside the main centres is a disadvantage. Also manufacturers I've dealt with really aren't interested in dealing with individuals, which is fair enough.

The two main features of Display that interest me the most are space and motion. With space, my personal opinion is that a small number of models spaced widely apart are much more effective than a greater number pushed together. Each model is enhanced, in the sense that you focus your attention on one at a time. How to achieve this in practice leads to real problems. I live in a small home, there just isn't the room. A part-answer for me may be to use the main display cabinets more for storage than display and cram the models in, and to then have somewhere else such as the lounge where two or three cars are displayed and changed around every week. Without a large house with a spare room or a spare garage, it must be hard for most people to get around the problem of space for the number of models they own.

With Motion, one criticism some others outside model circles have had is that static models don't actually "do anything". This is personal preference and in turn I can say that remote controlled vehicles and slot cars, etc, do nothing for me. But they have a point, and I can relate to where they are coming from. People by nature like to see something move. At model shows they will gaze at a TV monitor showing a vehicle in 2 dimensional black and white, when a model of the same thing is in front of them in 3 dimensional colour. I wonder if in part, this movement factor is why model railways get so much of the public's attention. To try and get around the problem for myself I have spent hours combing department stores and jeweller's, seemingly the most common places to find battery powered or motorised revolving display stands. Through rubbing shoulders with another member of the club I now have one of these which has with it the advantage of also partly solving the problem of space as it is multi-tiered. The real surprise for me has been the reaction of friends, not otherwise interested in model cars. Without trying to push my own barrow here, many are intrigued by the little 1/43rd scale models, illuminated and slowly going around and around. They seem to be prepared to look at them, off and on, for hours. I have actually asked some exactly what they think it is that attracts them, but no-one can tell me. It is definitely related to the movement; the display stand itself is a little unusual to see in a home, but that alone isn't enough — as a kind of experiment, I have left the stand empty and turned of for weeks after cleaning it and no-one takes a blind bit of notice of it. It makes sense that for this very reason (that motion attracts attention) these stands are used in marketing. Also, because of the revolving feature, a much greater number of articles can be displayed within a confined area.

The stand I have is called a Counter Display, in that it has to be placed on something reasonably high to be at viewing level. The same manufacturer makes a larger, floor mounted unit, used to show such things as cameras. I fancy one of these, holding more models and powerful enough to support and drive 1/18th scale models, but again you need a very large room to avoid it all looking too big and out of place. I have wondered if a single tier version would be more suitable, but have yet to find one which is strong enough for a 1/18th scale model; battery powered decks use up energy too quickly and I can find nothing motorised. One firm has offered to look into making one of these on an experimental, one-off basis, with perspex dust cover included, but has yet to get back to me, surprise, surprise. I don't intend letting them off the hook however, I'm used to disappointment and tired of models living in boxes.

John MacGregor
September, 2005


John MacGregor