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Unsinkable Legacy: Charting the Titanic's course through 6 global museums

112 years after her tragic sinking, the RMS Titanic's tale remains a captivating draw for travellers and historians. While Belfast and Southampton often come to mind first when thinking about the famous ship, these two cities only capture a fragment of her journey. In this blog, we'll delve into six amazing museums across several key destinations, each boasting a unique connection to part of the Titanic's story.

Belfast, Northern Ireland: Birthplace of Titanic.

Titanic Belfast, an award winning, multi gallery immersive museum, is built on the very spot where the mighty ship was designed, constructed, and launched. Originally opened in March 2012 in time for the centenary of the Titanic's sailing, this phenomenal interactive museum reopened in 2023 after a multimillion pound revamp. New highlights include galleries dedicated to the enquiry after the sinking and what measures have been put in place to ensure it doesn't happen again, and Dr Robert Ballard's quest to find the wreck. One spectacular new space, The Ship of Dreams, is an immersive exploration of the hopes and dreams of those who built, and sailed on, the Titanic, through floor to ceiling projections, beautiful music and a 7.6m rotating scale model of the ship suspended from the ceiling.

Fascinating artefacts on display include an original deckchair from the Titanic, the lunch menu enjoyed by First Class passengers on the day of the sinking and the violin belonging to one of the Titanic's heroic musicians, Wallace Hartley, who along with his bandmates bravely kept playing as the ship went down, at a cost to their own lives. Recently unveiled in one of the new galleries is one of only 12 Titanic lifejackets in the world. You can also see one at the Liverpool Maritime Museum, which you'll read about later.

To celebrate Belfast's legendary shipbuilding history, this museum also boasts a unique attraction called the Shipyard Ride: visitors board a special effects-equipped car that glides through a recreated shipyard, complete with sights, sounds, and even smells that bring the bustling activity of the Titanic's construction to life.

Titanic Belfast has won multiple awards including World's Leading Tourist Attraction at the 2016 World Travel Awards (beating some serious competition including the Las Vegas Strip and Dublin's Guinness Storehouse) and just last year the museum won the THEA award for Outstanding Achievement - Visitor Experience Re-envisioned: Limited Budget.

While you're visiting Titanic Belfast, take a walk around the surrounding Titanic Quarter - visit the historic slipways where RMS Titanic was built and launched from and step onboard the SS Nomadic (included in your Titanic Experience ticket), Titanic's tender in Cherbourg and the last remaining White Star Line ship in the world. Close by, travel back in time at the beautifully restored Harland and Wolff Drawing Offices, where the entire White Star Line fleet was designed. Now a boutique hotel, Titanic Hotel Belfast, you can ask at reception for a heritage trail map of the building. 

SS Nomadic with Titanic Belfast in the background
SS Nomadic with Titanic Belfast in the background

Titanic Belfast, 1 Olympic Way, Belfast BT3 9EP

Open daily from 9am, seasonal closing times here

Adult £24.95

Child (5 - 15) £11.00

Under 5s free

Southampton, England: Titanic's maiden voyage begins.

Best known as the RMS Titanic's departure point, Southampton has a more personal connection to the disaster: The vast majority of the ship's crew called this city home, and when the Titanic sank, nearly a third of the 1,500 lives lost were Southampton's own, leaving a city in mourning.

Opened in 2012 to commemorate 100 years since the Titanic's departure and sinking, Southampton's excellent SeaCity Museum houses the captivating "Southampton's Titanic Story" exhibition. Instantly delving into the human aspects of Titanic's history, your journey begins on a recreated Southampton street, where visitors are introduced to local crew members whose stories, and fates, unfold throughout the museum. 

Southampton's Titanic artefacts include Captain Smith's sword, White Star Line tableware, menus, and keys, and the exhibition caters to all ages. Young visitors (and the young at heart) can engage with interactive displays: Take the helm and steer a virtual ship out of Southampton's Solent, or experience the backbreaking daily work of shovelling 850 tons of coal to keep the engines roaring.

At SeaCity Museum, the sinking itself is told through the recorded voices of survivor testimonies and a vast floor map of the city with a red dot denoting every address that lost someone in the disaster. It must have felt like every street was affected. A highlight of Southampton's Titanic exhibition is the courtroom where the London inquiry of the sinking unfolds through audio-visual displays projected on the very walls that once housed Southampton's magistrates' courts. 

A telegram no family wanted to receive

Even today, Southampton is deeply linked to the Titanic. To explore this poignant connection, we've created a self-guided walking tour that takes you around all of Southampton's key landmarks, buildings and memorials dedicated to the Titanic, its passengers and crew.

SeaCity Museum, Havelock Rd, Southampton SO14 7FY

Open daily 9am - 5pm

Adult: £11.00

Concessions (over 65’s and students): £10.00

Child 5 and over: £8.50

Child under 5: free

Cherbourg, France: Luxury Passengers and Lavish Supplies

At 18:35 on 10th April 1912, RMS Titanic arrived in Cherbourg, France. 281 passengers boarded, including one of the wealthiest people on the planet: hotel mogul John Jacob Astor IV and his 19 year old wife Madeleine. While Titanic was waiting in Cherbourg, she also took onboard all kinds of luxury French goods for the transatlantic crossing including champagne, wine and cheese.

Situated in the old transatlantic liner terminal in Cherbourg-en-Cotentin, Normandy, the impressive maritime museum complex, La Cité de la Mer, houses the permanent exhibition: Titanic, Return to Cherbourg. While not as extensive as dedicated Titanic museums like Belfast, it offers a compelling glimpse into a key part of the ship's story.

The Luggage Hall, by Vincent Rustuel, La Cite de la Mer

La Cité de la Mer's interactive displays explore the hopes and dreams of emigrants who boarded the Titanic in Cherbourg, many seeking a new life in America; of the 281 passengers who joined the ship here, only 21 were French. The rest came from all over the world, including America, Lebanon, Russia and Uruguay.

Starting in the magnificent art deco baggage hall, visitors can descend a staircase mimicking the ship's hull and enter a world presenting the various classes of accommodation aboard, the crossing itself, and the tragic iceberg collision. A separate room sheds light on the extensive investigations that followed the sinking, culminating in the ground-breaking discovery of the wreck in 1985.

La Cite de la Mer, Gare Maritime Transatlantique, 50100 Cherbourg-en-Cotentin, France

Seasonal opening hours here

Adults €19.00

Children (5 - 17) €14.00

Under 5 years old Free

Cobh, Ireland: Dreams and desperation

Cobh (formerly Queenstown) was Titanic's last port of call before its fateful voyage across the Atlantic Ocean. The Titanic Experience Cobh tells the story of the passengers who boarded here, most of whom were third class passengers: Irish emigrants seeking a new, more prosperous life. Their steerage cabins would have been the first time many of them had seen running water or electricity! One particularly moving story recounts a County Mayo village who pooled resources to purchase 14 tickets for a group who dreamt of sending money back home after establishing themselves.  The tragedy of the Titanic wasn't just the loss of life (11 of the group died in the sinking), but the shattering of dreams for these families who had invested everything in a brighter future.

The Titanic Experience Cobh is unique amongst other Titanic museums for two reasons:

  • The museum itself is the original White Star Line ticket office where all 123 passengers, the very last to join the Titanic, would have passed through on April 11th 2012. This is the only Titanic museum located within the actual building used by the passengers.

  • Upon arrival, when you buy your ticket, you will be given a boarding pass with the name and details of one of the passengers that boarded at Cobh. You'll find out at the end if they survive the tragedy.

Upon arrival, visitors receive a boarding pass with the name of a Cobh Titanic passenger.

The Titanic Experience Cobh starts with a guided tour and uses several clever ways to put visitors in the passengers' footsteps: a video about boarding where the seating is arranged to suggest one of the Titanic's tenders, being led out onto the ticket building's balcony where the 1st class passengers would have waited, and audio-visual interactions with a crewmember who interrupts the tour of a glamorous 1st class cabin to inform you that the ship had struck an iceberg and you need to go to the lifeboats.

Titanic Experience Cobh's telling of the sinking itself was the most effective and moving that we encountered at any of the museums: an immersive first person point of view of the sinking. The seating in front of a video screen is arranged to suggest that you are in a life boat, low down and bobbing on the water. As you watch, the stricken vessel on the horizon tips further, further, one end hoisting terrifyingly high into the night sky, until finally with a rush and a cacophony of screams, it breaks in two and plunges beneath the surface. You can't imagine the horror, both of the passengers left behind on board, knowing that there were no more lifeboats left to save them, and of the people who had been rescued who could only watch as the ship collapsed so violently into the icy water. With mainly women and children taken off first, many would have watched the sinking knowing that loved ones, husbands, brothers, were still onboard. Of the 123 Cobh passengers, just 44 survived.

The pier where passengers boarded Titanic's tenders, Titanic Experience Cobh
The pier where passengers boarded Titanic's tenders, Titanic Experience Cobh

From here, the guided tour ends and visitors are free to explore two exhibit rooms featuring a number of belongings from the Odell family, who took numerous photographs onboard the Titanic before disembarking in Cobh, as well as White Star Line branded objects and a few items from the Carpathia.

The last wall of the exhibition has digital screens where you can read a small biography of your designated passenger and what became of them on the night of April 15th. David and I were both lost in the sinking, Jamie's passenger survived, only to die 6 years later fighting in WWI. The personal details add a further layer of tragedy to the story, as the passengers become so much more than names on a list: Roger Tobin, who dreamed of starting a hurley team in New York. Mary Delia Burns, the 17 year old who was probably younger, lying about her age to be able to travel alone, hoping to become a maid in New York.

About 15 minutes walk out of Cobh's town centre is the Titanic Memorial Garden.

Titanic Experience Cobh, 20 Casement Square, Cobh, Co. Cork P24 DW63

Open daily 9am - 6pm (Apr- Sept) / 10am - 5:30pm (Oct - Mar)

Adult €12.00

Concessions (over 65’s and students with ID): €10.50

Child 4 - 16: €8.00

Child under 4: free

Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada: 

"Titanic's survivors went to New York, all who perished came to Halifax."

Halifax was the closest major port to the site of the sinking - about 600 kilometers southeast of Newfoundland - and it played a vital role in the the recovery and identification of the victims. As The Maritime Museum of the Atlantic puts it: "Titanic's survivors went to New York, all who perished came to Halifax."

The Maritime Museum has a permanent exhibition, Titanic: The Unsinkable Ship and Halifax, featuring artefacts collected from the ocean surface following the disaster, passenger stories and details about the aftermath, including accounts by the cable ship crews who went out to recover bodies.

A family views a deckchair salvaged from the Titanic wreck site at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, Halifax, Nova Scotia
A deckchair salvaged from the Titanic wreck site by Halifax cable ship crews, on display at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic.

Due to the tragic nature of Halifax's involvement in the Titanic story, some of the artefacts on display are incredibly sad like the tiny brown leather shoes belonging to 19 month old Sidney Leslie Goodwin from England, or a mortuary bag used to keep together the personal effects of victim number 41, 33 year old Edmund Stone, a First Class bedroom Steward from Southampton. Other viewable objects include elaborately carved pieces of "wreckwood" collected by the cable ship crews (the Maritime Museum has the largest collection of wooden artefacts from the Titanic in the world), White Star Line dinnerware and a beautiful mahogany cabinet rescued from the sea by the cable ship Minia.

Just a 10-minute drive from the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic lies Fairview Lawn Cemetery, the final resting place for 121 victims of the Titanic disaster. A third of the recovered bodies were never identified; their simple markers bear only the date of the sinking and a number assigned to the victim when their body was recovered from the sea.  One heart-breaking stone reading "erected to the memory of an unknown child", belongs to Sidney Leslie Goodwin, whose tiny shoes are displayed in the museum. He was finally identified in 2007. Another grave marker that draws attention is dedicated to J. Dawson, and while some might see a connection to Leonardo DiCaprio's character in the 1997 film Titanic, director James Cameron insists that it's just a coincidence - the grave belongs to Joseph Dawson, an Irish coal trimmer who stoked the ship's boilers.

Titanic graves, Fairview Lawn Cemetery, Halifax Nova Scotia
Fairview Lawn Cemetery, Halifax Nova Scotia

Maritime Museum of the Atlantic,

1675 Lower Water Street, Halifax, B3J 1S3

Open Wednesday - Monday 9:30am - 4:30pm, Tuesday 9:30am - 8pm

Closed on Mondays Nov 1st - April 30th, holiday hours here

Adult $5.15 (Nov 1st - April 30th) / $9.55 (May 1st - Oct 31st)

Senior (65+) $4.40 (Nov 1st - April 30th) / $8.50 (May 1st - Oct 31st)

Child (6 - 17) $3.10 (Nov 1st - April 30th) / $5.15 (May 1st - Oct 31st)

Under 6: Free

Liverpool, England: White Star Line HQ

While Titanic never visited Liverpool, the city holds a significant connection to the ship: Liverpool was the home of the White Star Line's head offices, and since Titanic was registered as a Liverpool vessel, she bore the city's name on its stern. The White Star Line's New York route sailed from Liverpool until 1907, when, facing increased competition from Cunard's Lusitania and Mauretania, the company shifted operations to Southampton. From officers and crew to passengers, White Star employees and suppliers, hundreds of Liverpudlians were linked to the Titanic.

Liverpool's Maritime Museum is home to Titanic and Liverpool: the untold story, a permanent exhibition that explores the city's relationship to the disaster, including personal stories by crew and passengers with Liverpool connections, the story of Cunard's Carpathia, another Liverpool registered ship, rushing to the scene to rescue all the survivors, and a remarkable collection of personal effects and other items recovered from the Titanic wreck site.

Liverpool's precious Titanic artefacts on display include the white apron worn by Laura Mabel Francatelli, maid and secretary to Lady Duff-Gordon, who survived the sinking with her employers in lifeboat no. 1, a life jacket worn by a survivor in lifeboat no. 9, the tobacco pipe and case belonging to J.H. Hesketh, Titanic's Junior Second Engineer, a gold pocket watch owned by bedroom steward Thomas Hewitt and the first class ticket of Reverend Stuart Holden, who must thank his lucky stars everyday after his wife fell ill the day before sailing, caused him to cancel their trip on the Titanic. Other items on display were recovered from the debris field around the Titanic wreck site: a white ceramic cup, dish and cut glass carafe bearing the White Star Line logo, the name plate from Lifeboat no. 4, a ceramic wash basin, a silver boot hook.

Maritime Museum

Royal Albert Dock, Liverpool, L3 4AQ

Open Tuesday to Sunday 10am-5pm

Free entry

The story of the RMS Titanic continues to capture the imagination of people around the world. For history buffs and anyone interested in maritime history, these permanent exhibitions at museums across the globe offer a fascinating and deeply moving journey through each step of the life and legacy of the "Ship of Dreams."

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