There are supplements dropping out of every newspaper, documentaries and costume dramas on the telly and a million articles analysing every aspect of the catastrophe, so it might not have escaped your attention that this year marks the centenary of the Titanic disaster. The White Star passenger liner was the biggest and most luxurious ship of her day, but to worldwide disbelief she sank on her maiden trans-Atlantic voyage after hitting an iceberg on 15 April 1912. We thought we’d join the commemorations and update you on the various events that are taking place across the country to mark the illustrious launch and untimely demise of history’s most famous ship.
The Titanic began its Atlantic voyage from Southampton and 714 of her 897-strong crew hailed from the local area. Partly in tribute to this timeless association, April 10 sees the opening of Southampton’s new £15m SeaCity Museum – a state-of-the-art visitor attraction dedicated to the port city’s rich maritime heritage that will form the hub of Southampton’s new Cultural Quarter. Visitors can examine genuine artefacts, hear the harrowing testimony of survivors and explore the 1:25 scale model of the doomed liner. There will also be a series of commemorative events happening throughout April, including concerts, author talks and a special remembrance procession through the city.
Taking us back to where it all again, Belfast’s colossal new landmark Titanic Experience is situated right in the heart of the iconic Harland and Wolff shipyard. Its dramatic design mirrors the height of Titanic’s ill-fated hull giving visitors a chance to appreciate the sheer scale of this feat of early twentieth-century engineering. Inside, the world’s most extensive Titanic exhibition features a multimedia extravaganza of interactive exhibits, full-scale reconstructions and an electronic ‘dark ride’ into the heart of the liner’s construction – all very high-tech and contemporary, yet staunchly true to the ship's story. Watch out for the forthcoming Cool Places guide to this resurgent city this summer (Image courtesy of Robbie Leckey).
The National Maritime Museum commemorates the 1912 disaster with its Titanic Remembered exhibition in the magnificent old naval college in Greenwich Royal Park. The free-to-enter exhibit centres around the personal testimony of some of the Titanic’s survivors. Their poignant accounts, as told to the author Walter Lord, formed the basis for the book and subsequent film, A Night to Remember. The display also features genuine artefacts including clothing and toys from the doomed liner as well photographs from the site of the sinking itself – in case you haven't had your fill of these already.
The Merseyside Maritime Museum seeks to highlight Liverpool’s largely forgotten role in the Titanic tale with Titanic and Liverpool: the Untold Story, a major new exhibition at the regenerated Albert Docks. The White Star Line was based in Liverpool and a fair number of its crew came from the city. This landmark retrospective traces the cruise ship’s fate alongside that of Merseyside’s own nautical history by way of some never-before-displayed objects, including items from the North Atlantic wreck site and the only known surviving first-class passenger ticket. Oh, and the Cool Places guide to this very cool city is on the way.
While James Cameron’s 1997 blockbuster gets its glossy 3D makeover this April, the BFI on London’s Southbank showcases some of the Titanic’s lesser known screen portrayals. Highlights include original newsreel footage, Hitchcock’s legendary abandoned Titanic project and the earliest known dramatisation of the disaster, an extremely rare German silent from 1912, complete with piano accompaniment. With over two weeks of screenings, this special exhibition seeks to get to the heart of cinema’s enduring fascination with the once fabled ‘ship of dreams’.
For the best and most entertaining background on the Titanic disaster, we recommend Cool Places writer Greg Ward's recently published Rough Guide to the Titanic – and his excellent blog on the same subject.