Titanic Belfast has given local and international press a sneak-peak into its galleries and the 1,000-seater banqueting venue, Titanic Suite. A full overview of each gallery is below.
Gallery 1: Boomtown Belfast
In Gallery 1, visitors step back into Edwardian Belfast. To appreciate the achievement Titanic
represented, visitors are immersed in the Belfast of the early 1900s and become acquainted with the people who lived there. Set pieces, artefacts, photographs, soundscapes, oral testimony, archive material and film set the context for the birth of the Titanic and her sister ships, providing visitors with insights into the wealth, confidence and industrial might of the city. Visitors will walk through Belfast’s 'streets' towards Queen's Island with a rising sense of expectation, eventually passing through a set of original Harland & Wolff gates into the yard itself.
Gallery 2: The Arrol Gantry and Shipyard Ride
Visitors take a 20m journey in a metal elevator up the Arrol Gantry, the enormous steel structure built to facilitate the construction of Titanic and her sister ships, Olympic and Britannic. They then join Harland & Wolff's workers on a ‘shipyard ride’. Believed to be the first of its kind, the ride is a five-minute journey in a six-seater car that rotates and moves up and down along a circuit accompanied by CGI, audio and special effects. Full-size replicas, including riveting machines and Titanic’s rudder, give a scale perspective into working life in the shipyard. The original Arrol Gantry was 840 ft long, 240 ft wide and 228 ft high, and was in use until the 1960s.
Gallery 3: The Launch of Titanic
Having seen the Titanic being built, Gallery 3 celebrates her launch. Visitors now have a view down the slips where this momentous occasion took place, using innovative glazing that transposes original imagery of Titanic’s onto the glass, demonstrating the sheer scale of the vessel.
Gallery 4: The Fit-Out
Gallery Four tells of the skill and craftsmanship that went into Titanic, from the fitting of its enormous boilers and engines to the fine joinery and upholstery work of its linens, carpets and cabins. Visitors will experience the reality of the ship's interiors in a ‘3D cave’ that recreates the engine rooms, third class saloons, first class corridors, grand staircase, a la carte restaurant and navigation bridge, allowing visitors to ‘walk’ the ship’s length. There are also detailed, full scale reconstructions of 1st, 2nd and 3rd class cabins.
Gallery 5: The Maiden Voyage
Visitors are now swept up in the celebratory atmosphere as Titanic leaves Belfast and then sets sail from Southampton on her maiden voyage. The gallery features the extraordinary photographs of Father Frank Browne
, the young Irish Jesuit who was given a gift of a ticket to travel on Titanic from Southampton to Queenstown and photographed the journey. His images provide a unique chronicle of Titanic’s first and only voyage.
Gallery 6: The Sinking
The atmosphere of the exhibition now changes radically into a dramatic sensory experience, as visitors enter a darkened tunnel where the temperature, soundtrack and images all evoke the tragedy of Titanic's collision with an iceberg and subsequent sinking, with the loss of 1,500 lives.
Visitors will sense the tragedy and the ending of the dream which led to Titanic’s creation. They then move into an area where the narrative follows the stories of survivors and victims, and the worldwide press coverage of the tragedy, with particular attention devoted to Belfast and to Halifax, Nova Scotia, where the bodies of some of Titanic’s victims were buried.
Gallery 7: The Aftermath
A poignant wall of 400 life vests leads into Gallery Seven. Interactive visual and audio displays centred round a 25ft replica of a Titanic lifeboat interpret the aftermath of the sinking, the British and American inquiries into the disaster and the ongoing question of whom – if anyone – was to blame, as well as the important changes to safety at sea legislation, from which we still benefit. Visitors can also explore Titanic’s passenger and crew database, and follow the parallel lives of her sister ships, Olympic and Britannic, and the story of Harland & Wolff after the sinking.
Gallery 8: Myths and Legends
After the disaster, Titanic’s story fragments as legends and cultural representations of the ship become increasingly different from the reality. An interactive table enables visitors to explore some of the films, books, plays and poetry which Titanic has inspired, while elsewhere in the gallery, the myths and legends that surround the ship are examined, and in many cases debunked. To contrast the fictional Titanic with the real ship, the gallery also begins to introduce visitors to the difficulties of locating Titanic's wreck
, two and a half miles below the surface of the North Atlantic.
Gallery 9: Titanic Beneath
Gallery 9 is the culmination of the visitors' journey, as they meet Dr Robert Ballard
and explore with him the wreck of the Titanic. Viewing huge projection screens, they feel as if they are flying over the wreck in a submersible. They then descend to appreciate a bird's eye view of the wreck, made from a mosaic of thousands of Ballard's photographs, which brings you as close as is possible to walking the deck of the ship as she lies on the ocean floor. As the visitors' view narrows down they are presented with the opportunity to explore Titanic's debris field, looking at some of the thousands of items which lie around the wreck, ranging from huge boilers to small personal items which remind us once again of the scale of human loss which the disaster represents.
Visitors are left with a lasting impression of the splendour and grandeur of Titanic and of Belfast's achievement in building the ship, but also with an important reminder that this is a story about individual lives, about achievements and losses.
The narrative ends not with the disaster, but with an examination of how the spirit of Titanic has lived on, in the Ocean Exploration Centre. Here footage from Ballard's ongoing exploration of our seas and oceans is shown alongside more local endeavours, as Irish universities explore the marine environment around Ireland.
All images - www.christopherheaney.com