Remembering the Titanic in Southampton
By Matthew Adams
Southampton is famous for its ships such as the great ocean liners that dominated its port during the early 20th century. Briefly among them was White Star’s Titanic, which in 1912 was the largest ship to have been constructed. The Titanic set sail from Southampton in April, 1912 for its maiden voyage. However, this was cut short as the Titanic famously sank like a rock in the Atlantic with over 2,000 aboard. Only a minority were picked up and arrived in New York. In 2012, Southampton has been commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Titanic in the month of April.
The SeaCity Museum
For the anniversary a new state-of-the-art SeaCity Museum was opened at Havelock Road, within the Cultural Quarter of Southampton. This museum has now replaced the former, and smaller, Maritime Museum which was closer to the seafront. As the SeaCity Museum is located within a former court building it does not win any prizes for innovative architecture!
Within the museum three exciting exhibitions are included: Titanic the Legend, Gateway to the World and Southampton’s Titanic Story. These exhibitions showcase a range of Titanic artefacts, Titanic collectables and more general archaeological artefacts (such as old pottery) which are showcased at the Gateway to the World exhibition.
Southampton’s Titanic Story is the exhibition that covers the brief history of the Titanic. A large diagram of the Titanic is drawn out on one wall which displays the ship’s layout and various compartments such as kitchens, boiler rooms, cafés, the Grand Staircase, cabins, lifts etc. Behind this there are glass cases which display Titanic documents and artefacts such as the captain’s sword. Various bits and pieces from other similar ships are also included in the exhibition like the Olympic’s Honour and Glory Panel, which was very similar to the panel included at the Grand Staircase of the Titanic.
Another highlight of this exhibition is the full size 1930’s court room which depict the London Titanic tribunal. The left and right walls of this courtroom are dominated by two large cinematic screens which are supported by audio commentary from the original court records.
The Gateway to the World exhibition is a smaller exhibition which covers the history of Southampton more generally. At the center of the exhibition is a large round touch-screen map which includes a number of bird’s eye maps of Southampton from various periods. In a smaller adjacent room there is a large Queen Mary ship model, alongside hundreds of smaller ship models.
On the ground floor the Titanic Legend exhibition is the only temporary exhibition at the museum. This includes six TV displays which play Titanic films. Along one of the walls a myriad of Titanic items and collectables such as Titanic plates, books, calendars, bags, pens, china and board games etc are displayed within glass circles. Also included within this section is the underwater ROV (remotely operated underwater vehicle) that discovered the wreck of the Titanic. This exhibition will run until August, 2013.
The City Art Gallery
Beyond the SeaCity Museum, the Cultural Quarter also includes the City Art Gallery which displays a variety of paintings. Although not exactly the Louvre, it is still renowned for its collections. For the Titanic anniversary this gallery is dominated by hundreds of Titanic paintings. These probably won’t always be there, but there are always a variety of paintings displayed at the gallery.
The Titanic Trail along the East Park:
Southampton’s West Park and East Park surround the Cultural Quarter outside. These parks include tennis courts, cafés, mini golf courses, fountains and rose gardens. They were not left out of the anniversary either as the East Park includes the Titanic memorial. For the anniversary an actual size outline of the Titanic’s hull from the prow to the stern, and its lifeboats, was painted along the centre of the East Park path to walk along, and stretched from the Titanic memorial to the end of the park.
Although Southampton is not just famous for ships. Some famous aircrafts have also ‘taken off’ at this site in the UK. Among them, the first Spitfire was constructed at Southampton’s assembly lines during the 1930s. Unlike the Titanic, this aircraft did not go down so easily as it was an influential RAF aircraft during World War Two. Southampton’s Solent Sky Aviation Museum is an aircraft museum that includes a Spitfire aircraft among a variety of others. This is close to the Ocean Village marina on the east side of Southampton. A variety of further alternative museums such as the Bargate Monument Gallery can also be found within Southampton’s Old Town, an older part of the city which links to the Cultural Quarter.
Or you can take a trip to Southampton’s Mayflower Theater. The Mayflower is located within the Cultural Quarter, close to the SeaCity Museum. The theater is a venue for a variety musicals, dance, ballet and opera.
So, when in Southampton visit the SeaCity Museum, Mayflower Theater, Solent Sky Museum, City Art Gallery or the Bargate Monument Gallery. You can reach Southampton via the air, rail or the sea. However you travel, the trip should be a smoother one than the Titanic’s maiden voyage!
Matthew Adams is a freelance writer that has produced a variety of articles for various publications such as Swing Golf Magazine, the Washington Post and other travel websites. Matthew also has his own golf blog at http://amateurgolfer.blogspot.co.uk/.