“And it wasn’t until we were in the lifeboat and rowing away, it wasn’t until then I realized that ship’s going to sink. It hits me there.”
-Eva Hart, Titanic Survivor
There are few names in history that evoke such emotion, and no other ship as famous as Titanic.
Everyone is familiar with the tragedy of Titanic – the unsinkable dream liner that did in fact sink after hitting an iceberg on the night of the 14th of April, 1912. And while we are all acquainted with the story of the ship (largely due to the Academy Award winning Titanic film in 1997) it’s the romance of the story we’re most familiar with. And while as entertainment I love nothing more than the story of the Jack and Rose, there’s a much bigger picture behind the ill-fated ship.
It was in search of this larger story that I headed off to Belfast to visit the relatively new Titanic Museum. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect – was it going to be cheesy, was it going to be boring – but after spending nearly 3 hours in the museum I was extremely pleased. The museum does an excellent job of interactively telling the full story of Titanic. The one thing I walked away with was the realisation that Titanic was just as much a story of a city, as it was a story of a sinking.
The museum is built on the very sight Titanic was launched which makes for a real, authentic experience. There are a few different tours to choose from; I went for the “Titanic Experience”, which is the regular, self-guided ticket to the museum.
The museum is divided into chronological sections, meaning you are literally moving through history as you explore the museum. It starts with Boomtown Belfast, depicting the industrial innovations that made modern Belfast.
From here, you journey on to the Shipyard Ride, which is one of the most interesting parts of the museum. The ride moves through the sights and sounds of the building of Titanic, immersing you in the perspective of the workers. It’s through the first two sections of the museum that you really how central the city of Belfast is to the story of the Titanic. Titanic was one of Belfast’s greatest accomplishments – not only providing jobs, but was something the city could be proud of.
After the ride you move on to the Launch. This takes you through the official launch of the Titanic on the 31st of May 1911.
Another really interesting section was the The Fit Out, which uses artifacts and models to depict the ship’s interior. It is here that the famous class divisions aboard the Titanic are also discussed. It’s well known that third class passengers were the last ones to be allowed to board the lifeboats, but what was particularly interesting was just how bad they had it aboard the ship as well. There were only two bathrooms on board the ship for all third class passengers!
You then move on to the Maiden Voyage, which takes you through the departure from Southampton. It is here you are also able to explore the stories of many of the passengers, some who survived and some who didn’t.
You’re then taken through the sinking of the Titanic, complete with a digital simulation. The most moving part of this section for me was the telegrams, which are blown up and displayed on the wall, showing Titanic’s last calls for help before she ultimately disappeared beneath the water.
The museum concludes with a The Aftermath, where visitors can learn about the inquisition into the sinking. There is also a fun room on the myth and romance of Titanic, that attempts to explain why Titanic has been such a cultural phenomenon. At the very end you can explore the Titanic as it lies beneath the sea today.
No matter how much you know about Titanic, I cannot recommend this museum enough. It is a real glimpse into the story of Titanic, and ultimately a story of Belfast.