A Titanic display of history

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What do you think when you hear ‘the Titanic’?

Do you think: 1912; emigration; Belfast; White Star Line; Olympic; luxury; largest moving manmade construction; class system; Southampton; coal; Queenstown or Cobh; and New York?

Do you think: ‘unsinkable’; Leo DiCaprio; Kate Winslet; blockbuster; and Celine Dion?

Or do you just think of a giant ship being gored by an iceberg, ripping in two and sinking beneath the surface of the Atlantic, taking the lives of more than 1,500 people?

I bet you think of its fate rather than its genesis.

At the Titanic Experience in Belfast, the interactive museum does a fantastic job at addressing every facet of the maritime disaster. Everything, that is, except the sinking itself. But we’ll get to that.

To be captioned by Picture Desk101 years after the Titanic sank, the story is still divisive. In the past two weeks, a Red Bull TV advert featuring a crate of the energy drink being hoisted aboard Titanic received more than 110 complaints to Britain’s Advertising Standards Authority. The day before we visited the Titanic museum the tour bus commentator sparked groans among us with the quip:

“Fifteen thousand Protestant men helped to build the Titanic. People ask me what the Catholics were doing. Of course, they were busy building the iceberg.”

The museum resembles four futuristic Titanics emerging from a wormhole at the centre of the building. Luckily, the inside is jam-packed with displays, artefacts, graphics, photographs, recordings and even a five-minute ride. Over four floors the story follows life in Belfast in the early 20th century all the way to unmanned submarines peering at the ‘rusticles’ dripping from the remains of the Titanic’s railings over two miles below the surface.

Even outside the building there is history. The slipway where the keel of Titanic was laid down traces the outline of the massive ship. A handful of us watched young people DSC_0023learning to waterski, where the unfinished hulk of the ship rolled away and christened itself in the River Lagan before a crowd of 100,000 onlookers at 12.13pm on May 31, 1911.

I had only one gripe coming away from Titanic Experience – the actual sinking was glossed over. We stood in solemn silence and watched a computer-generated animation of what the sinking would have looked like. The big screen showed the ship leaning to starboard, slowly dipping until its stern stood almost straight up out of the sea, then it simply disappeared. The video ignored the fact that Titanic broke apart at the surface.

The truth of what happened to the ship was revealed by Titanic nut, James Cameron. His piece-by-piece re-enactment of the sinking could almost be called CSI: Titanic! Watch the video below to get a true sense of the terror Titanic’s passengers must have felt.

I would recommend the Titanic Experience to everybody – from connoisseurs to the simply curious.

It even kept a two-year-old enthralled for almost three hours!

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