I’m a big museum girl, and during this trip I’ve been making a point to visit several in each city we stay in. After being in Belfast for half a week I was more than ready to once again immerse myself in the slow footsteps and quiet murmurs that make up the atmosphere of a museum, and today was the day. The rain poured down on us as we made our way across the city, leaving many members of our group soaking wet upon our arrival at the Titanic Museum. Officially known as Titanic Belfast, this museum houses nine interactive exhibitions that tell the story of the building and sinking of the Titanic, as well as of the conditions aboard the ship, the aftermath of the sinking, and modern-day explorations of the wreckage on the sea floor.
As we separated into smaller groups to explore the museum, I was able to forget about the dismal conditions outside and sink into the detailed, hands-on exhibits. We started our tour by looking at the bustling industries of Belfast, understanding why this city was chosen to build the world’s most famous ship. A five-minute shipyard experience allowed us to feel the wind that blew through the gantries while the builders worked, and the heat of the forges that created the rivets holding the Titanic’s hull together. Afterwards, we entered into a room that showcased the luxurious first-class cabins belowdeck and the more modest second- and third-class rooms. An immersive video helped with our visualization of the Titanic’s insides, from the noisy boiler rooms to the stately dining room with piano music floating through the air. These were the conditions under which the ship’s crew and passengers would have lived until that fateful night of April 14th, 1912.
Entering the exhibition about the sinking of the Titanic, the atmosphere grew somber as the lights overhead dimmed and the temperature fell. Painted on the wall were verbatim messages from the Titanic to other ships around her as her crew realized they had hit an iceberg and were going down. As I read them, I felt shivers down my spine as I imagined the terror that the passengers must have experienced when they were woken up in the middle of the night to news that their ship was sinking. While all this was going on, their loved ones had no idea about the tragedy that was unfolding. When Carpathia, the ship that came to rescue Titanic’s passengers, arrived in New York with 710 extra people, three days had passed and multiple erroneous news reports were circulating. We were able to see newspapers with headlines that stated Titanic was being towed to New York or that everyone aboard had perished.
The last section of the museum was a modern exhibition about the wreckage of the Titanic. Standing on a glass floor, we saw under our feet the remains of the Titanic – a once-majestic ocean liner now rusting and falling apart. A big-screen movie theater showed footage from an underwater ROV exploring the ruins. We also saw her legacy remembered in countless poems, films, and other works of art that depicted her romantic but ultimately tragic story. To me, this museum is an ode to the thousands of workers who dedicated their days to building the Titanic, to the crew members who called this ship home, and to all the passengers who gave their lives trying to reach a better one.
Written by Michelle Zhang