CIE TOURS - July 23, 2018
July 23, 2018
By Caroline Bartholomew
About one hundred years ago, the sound coming from Belfast’s Harland and Wolff Shipyard would’ve been the continuous clanging of workers hammering away to create the biggest ship of its time: the RMS Titanic. Today, the area along the Victoria Channel is relatively quiet, but Belfast certainly has not forgotten where one of the world’s most famous ships was born. In 2012, the Titanic Belfast Museum opened, and we had the opportunity to visit during our Wild Atlantic Way journey.
Built to be the same height as the Titanic would’ve been, the building itself is just as impressive as the information inside it. We also got the chance to walk around behind the museum to see where the ship was actually built.
Inside, there were three exhibitions that detailed the background information on life in Belfast at the turn of the century and the prominence of shipbuilding there, the shipbuilding process itself and finally, the sinking of Titanic and the aftermath. I loved that the museum is laid out this way because it teaches visitors that Titanic was more than just a sad story, but rather that it’s also part of the larger stories of Belfast, immigration and industrialization. You don’t hear Jack and Rose talking about this in the “Titanic” movie, do you?
The museum emphasized the grueling manual labor that went into building Titanic which I (and I’m sure many others) might forget because of our reliance on machines today. Photographs of builders hard at work humanized the hundreds of workers, even if we don’t know their names or stories. The men who built Titanic often worked from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., and eight workers even died while building it. Not only was the building of Titanic a feat of engineering, but also of human perseverance.
Like many people, I automatically think of James Cameron’s 1997 film when I hear the word “Titanic,” but there is much more to the story. Something that stood out to me at the museum was the identical resemblance of Titanic’s real interior and the movie set. I couldn’t believe how similar they looked, and I felt like I already knew my way around the ship during the virtual tour at the museum. Cameron’s film, however, is just one of the many that have been made about the disaster throughout the years.
Movies started being made in 1912, the same year that Titanic sank. The first one, called “Saved from the Titanic” starred Dorothy Gibson, an American actress who had actually survived the sinking. In a 1943 Nazi propaganda film called “Titanic,” a German officer saves passengers from third class and the British are shown as greedy for prioritizing profit and wanting to break the speed record. Since 1912, many movies have been made about Titanic because sadly, tragedy makes a great story.
Although the story of Jack and Rose from the 1997 is fictional, there could have been people with similar stories. The museum highlights stories of some of the 2,200 passengers and crew on board and includes an electronic database of all passengers and crew with their name, age, nationality, occupation and whether or not they survived. Even if we don’t know all of their stories, the museum serves as memorial for them and it’s a way to honor Belfast’s rich history of shipbuilding.