Titanic: An Exhibition to Remember

“But I thought the old lady dropped it into the ocean at the end?” asked a certain pop-star.

“Well baby,” came the astronaut’s* reply, “I went down and got it for you.”

Although it’s never mentioned we know exactly what object the old lady dropped into the ocean, mainly because the whole world (probably) has seen the film. Which film? You ask, because there has been more than a few made over the years.

Well, the film would be Titanic.

April 14th 2012 marks the centenary of the world’s most well-known maritime disaster that, even after 100 years, still captures the imagination. Titanic is being re-released with the gimmick-du-jour and Julian Fellows has created a mini-series based on the events (nick-named “Drownton” after his previous televisual success).

The museum world hasn’t been immune to the siren call of the ill-fated but eternally fascinating Titanic with Southampton and Belfast opening their own Titanic museums and the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich is showing Titanic/Remembered until 9th September. I urge you to see it, for a small show it packs a powerful punch (also it is completely free).

So yes, the Old Lady dropped it into the ocean in the end.

But the objects from the Titanic have such a pull on our imaginations that I’m sure someone will go down to try and find it (fictional or not). Titanic/Remembered is fortunate enough to contain several incredible artefacts from the night to remember; a ticket from a passenger whose plans were changed at the last minute, a golden pocket-watch frozen in time, and a lady’s white handkerchief used to flag down rescue ships.

A pocket-watch recovered from Robert Norman, a Glaswegian engineer. The hands are frozen at 3.07, the moment the watch hit the water. Norman hadn't reset the time when the Titanic crossed time zones.
Handkerchief belonging to Eleanor Cassebeer, used to flag down rescue boats.
















Perhaps more powerful than the objects are the very personal stories which accompany them. These are not anonymous artefacts from a past so far away as to be imaginary, but are just outside living memory.

These powerful, personal stories have been passed down to us and posterity by the travails of Walter Lord, who wrote A Night To Remember, which was compiled from the stories told to Lord by the survivors and has become the source of countless films, novels, plays, television series ect ad nauseum.  Titanic/Remembered is lucky enough to boast some correspondence between Lord and survivors, which adds o the emotional impact of the other objects.

Titanic may not have been the worst maritime disaster, but it’s the one that will linger in our collective subconscious regardless of Jack and Rose.

Titanic/Remembered is on at National Maritime Museum, Greenwich until 30th  September, admission free.

(*Where Britney got the astronaut from, and what he was doing at the bottom of the sea, your guess is as good as mine.)


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