A “hugely significant” mass of more than 7,000 items belying the supposed discrepancy between wealthy passengers and their poorer fellow travellers on board the Titanic will go on show in an unprecedented maritime display in Northern Ireland.
The Ulster Folk and Transport Museum has snapped up the collection by Paul Louden Brown, an oracle on the White Star Line of vessels produced by Belfast shipbuilding giant Harland and Wolff in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Uniforms, furniture, glass lantern slides, stereo-view cards and diaries are among the exhibits, as well as china and glass crockery and original fixtures and fittings from the Titanic’s sister ship, Olympic, which will be on view for the first time.
“The White Star Line collection helps dispel some ideas we might have had about the difference between the experience of first class and third class passengers,” says William Blair, the Head of Human History for National Museums Northern Ireland, handling the “fascinating” haul.
“While the content provides eye-opening insights into the strict class distinctions of the Edwardian era, it also shows the unexpected levels of luxury and customer service provided to Third Class passengers.”
The TitanicA exhibition at the museum marks the centenary of the tragedy, held as part of a series of events celebrating Belfast’s industrial heritage.
“For 50 years, from 1869 until 1919, there was never a day when Harland and Wolff did not have a ship under construction for the White Star Line,” says Blair.
“This collection reveals much about the maritime and industrial context of Titanic.”
Dr Jim McGreevy, the Director of Collections and Interpretation for NMNI, says the collection is “unique” and “of international standard”.
“This collection of Titanic’s parent company is hugely significant to Northern Ireland’s cultural and industrial heritage,” he observes.
“The museum holds an extensive collection of artefacts relating to the Titanic itself and, importantly, its wider context within the White Star Line fleet.
”As well as being a key addition to the maritime collection, this acquisition will benefit wider plans to mark the centenary of the launch and sinking of the world’s most famous ship.”
- TitanicA opens to the public on May 31 2011. See our preview of the show and the two-month programme of events in Belfast to mark the centenary of the Titanic launch.
Highlights from the collection:
Objects supplying information for passengers
Passenger lists; abstract of log cards, steamer tickets, White Star calendars and guide books, steamship agent promotional material
Objects on advertising
Posters, paintings, travel agent framed prints, photos of steamers, adverts promoting the use of certain products in White Star liners, Ross’s Belfast Ginger Ale (RMS Olympic), Vinolia Soap (RMS Olympic and Titanic), Pears’ Soap (all vessels), Edison Lamps (all vessels)
Objects depicting entertainment on board ships of the period
Playing cards, whist scores, music programmes, library books, book marks, sports programs, dance programs, souvenir items, ashtrays, match boxes and folders, postcards, writing paper, sheet music, 78 rpm record albums, Bibles
Objects representing the life of the crew
Stewards menu reference book from SS Baltic, steward’s menu idea book, steward’s uniform jacket (including his discharge books), medals, uniform badges, buttons, individual and group portrait photographs in company service, stewardesses uniform apron
Objects relating to the cabin
Bed spreads (Belfast linen) for first class and third class, cabin hot water jug, cabin towel, cabin match box holders and ashtrays, toilet notices to passengers, cabin and third class accommodation plans
Objects on Steamship Agencies
Postcard notices regarding steerage ticket sales, passenger contract tickets, “Christmas Remittances Drafts Payable in the Old Country”; steerage passenger ticket receipts (mostly Irish names), instructions to agents for the sale of passage tickets
Passenger lists, financial records, posters