2012 is the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, and the Northern Irish government decided to commemorate the occasion with the opening of a very expansive and expensive museum costing a reported 97 million pounds. It is built in the docklands area where the Titanic was originally constructed which in itself is a major redevelopment area. Shipbuilding was once a major activity in Belfast, as it was in Glasgow and other cities, and the Irish are proud of their association with the construction of the ship.
(Ask Irish what they think about the Titanic they will often respond “Well, it was just fine when it left Belfast!”)
The design of the Titanic museum is based on the design of the ship’s hull with each of three ‘wings’ in scale with the actual ship’s hull. On four inside levels, the story of the ship’s construction, fitting out, one and only sailing, and subsequent events is beautifully told through advanced computer generated graphics and exhibits.
They include a ‘tour’ through the factory while it is under construction, and an elevator ride up through the ship which allows visitors to appreciate the magnitude of the engines, the magnificence of the public areas and view from the Captain’s deck.
Elsewhere in the museum are replicas of first, second and third class cabins with the occupants going about their daily activities. There is also some surprising original footage of the ship as well as daily life in Belfast.
The lower floor exhibits deal with the subsequent investigations into what happened, and how to prevent any similar tragedies in the future. There are also displays of children’s artwork in which they interpret what happened and a very good shop with just about every souvenir imaginable, including a Titanic chess set!
During my recent visit to the World Expo in Korea, I saw a lot of impressive exhibits and sound and light shows. However, I must say I was most impressed with this Belfast museum which in its first 12 weeks has achieved almost half the attendance level originally projected for the first year. I strongly recommend a visit to the museum if you are in Northern Ireland; indeed, I believe this exhibition and other sites in and around Belfast justify the two hour train journey or car ride from Dublin, which for many is their main stop in Ireland.
Just don’t tell them you’re from Canada, since it was a Canadian iceberg that sunk the ship!