First look inside Titanic Belfast

Published Wednesday, 14 March 2012
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With still two weeks to go until the official opening of Titanic Belfast, just some of the £90m unique exhibition - which has already prompted 80,000 ticket sales across 20 countries around the world - has been revealed.

Over 100 years ago, finishing touches were being added to the ship itself at the Queen's Island slipway and now a different kind of project is underway as builders work tirelessly to finish the structure commemorating it.

The six-storey construction in the derelict shipyard where Titanic was put together is, at 90ft, the same height as the ill-fated liner's bow and among the details included inside is an impressive replica of its grand staircase.

Titanic Belfast has, like the ship, taken three years to build and is on course to open on schedule on 31 March - just ahead of the April centenary of its maiden voyage.

"It's a great feeling to see the building as visitors will see it and to find that its content, which looked great on paper, looks even better in reality," chief executive Tim Husbands said.

It is hoped 425,000 people will be attracted to what operators insist is an experience, rather than a museum.

Visitors to Titanic Belfast will be taken on a journey through a series of galleries devoted to different aspects of the ship's tragic story - from Boomtown Belfast and how the thriving industrial port city was chosen as the birthplace of the world's biggest liner, through a recreation of Harland and Wolff, and to the triumphant launch.

Titanic belongs to Belfast. I'm very pleased that the city which gave Titanic to the world will now be able to welcome the world to Titanic Belfast.

Robert Ballard, oceanographer who discovered the Titanic wreck in 1985

But as the recounting of events moves to the fateful night of the sinking in 1912, the lights dim and the temperature falls for the telling of haunting survivor accounts while the fates of the 1,522 victims cover the walls.

The story doesn't end there though and visitors can look at the findings of British and American inquiries into the shipping disaster and the myths and legends surrounding it over the last 100 years.

The Titanic Below gallery also looks at the liner's final resting place two-and-a-half miles below the Atlantic, with video footage shown on a screen below the glass floor and live streaming from ongoing dive missions.

As well as the Titanic Belfast opening, the centenary is also set to be marked with one of the world's largest light shows projected onto the building, the opening of a memorial garden at City Hall, and an MTV slipway gig.


Titanic Belfast

Gallery 1: Boomtown Belfast

Visitors step back into Edwardian Belfast to set the context for the birth of the Titanic - and her sister ships - and appreciate the achievement they represented, gaining insights into the wealth, confidence and industrial might of the city in the 1900s. Visitors will walk through Belfast's 'streets' towards Queen's Island, eventually passing through a set of original Harland & Wolff gates into the yard itself.

Gallery 2: The Arrol Gantry and Shipyard Ride

Visitors take a journey in a metal elevator up the Arrol Gantry, the enormous steel structure built to facilitate the construction of Titanic and her sister ships, Olympic and Britannic. They then join Harland & Wolff's workers on a 'shipyard ride'. Believed to be the first of its kind, the ride is a five-minute journey in a six-seater car that rotates and moves up and down along a circuit - accompanied by CGI, audio and special effects. Full-size replicas, including riveting machines and Titanic's rudder, give a scale perspective into working life in the shipyard.

Gallery 3: The Launch of Titanic

Visitors have a view down the slips where the momentous launch of the Titanic took place, using innovative glazing that transposes original imagery of Titanic's onto the glass, demonstrating the sheer scale of the vessel.

Gallery 4: The Fit-Out

Visitors learn of the skill and craftsmanship that went into Titanic, from the fitting of its enormous boilers and engines to the fine joinery and upholstery work of its linens, carpets and cabins. Experiencing the reality of the ship's interiors in a '3D cave' that recreates the engine rooms, third class saloons, first class corridors, grand staircase, a la carte restaurant and navigation bridge, visitors will be able to 'walk' the ship's length. They can also take in detailed, full-scale reconstructions of 1st, 2nd and 3rd class cabins.

Gallery 5: The Maiden Voyage

As Titanic leaves Belfast and then sets sail from Southampton on her maiden voyage, visitors can see the extraordinary photographs of Father Frank Browne - the young Irish Jesuit who was given a gift of a ticket to travel on Titanic from Southampton to Queenstown and photographed the journey. His images provide a unique chronicle of Titanic's first and only voyage.

Gallery 6: The Sinking

The atmosphere of the exhibition changes radically into a dramatic sensory experience, as visitors enter a darkened tunnel where the temperature, soundtrack and images all evoke the tragedy of Titanic's collision with an iceberg and subsequent sinking.

Visitors will sense the tragedy and the ending of the dream which led to Titanic's creation. They then move into an area where the narrative follows the stories of survivors and the 1,500 victims and the worldwide press coverage of the tragedy - with particular attention devoted to Belfast and to Halifax, Nova Scotia, where the bodies of some of Titanic's victims were buried.

Gallery 7: The Aftermath

A poignant wall of 400 life vests leads the way to interactive visual and audio displays centred round a 25ft replica of a Titanic lifeboat to mark the aftermath of the sinking, the British and American inquiries into the disaster and the ongoing question of whom - if anyone - was to blame, as well as the subsequent important changes to safety at sea legislation. Visitors can also explore Titanic's passenger and crew database and follow the parallel lives of her sister ships, Olympic and Britannic, and the story of Harland & Wolff after the sinking.

Gallery 8: Myths and Legends

After the disaster, Titanic's story fragments as legends and cultural representations of the ship become increasingly different from the reality. An interactive table enables visitors to explore some of the films, books, plays and poetry which Titanic has inspired. The myths and legends that surround the ship are also examined, and in many cases debunked. To contrast the fictional Titanic with the real ship, visitors are also introduced to the difficulties of locating Titanic's wreck, two-and-a-half miles below the surface of the North Atlantic.

Gallery 9: Titanic Beneath

The culmination of the visitors' journey takes them to meet Dr Robert Ballard and explore with him the wreck of the Titanic. Viewing huge projection screens, they feel as if they are flying over the wreck in a submersible and then descend to appreciate a bird's eye view of the wreck - made from a mosaic of thousands of Ballard's photographs - which brings you as close as is possible to walking the deck of the ship as she lies on the ocean floor. As the visitors' view narrows down, they are presented with the opportunity to explore Titanic's debris field and look at some of the thousands of items which lie around the wreck - ranging from huge boilers to small personal items which remind us once again of the scale of human loss which the disaster represents.

Visitors are left with a lasting impression of the splendour and grandeur of Titanic and of Belfast's achievement in building the ship, but also with an important reminder that the story is about individual lives, about achievements and losses.

The narrative ends not with the disaster, but with an examination of how the spirit of Titanic has lived on, in the Ocean Exploration Centre. Footage from Dr Ballard's ongoing exploration of our seas and oceans is shown alongside more local endeavours, as Irish universities explore the marine environment around Ireland.

© UTV News
Comments Comments
10 Comments
Marie Tappin in Yorkshire wrote (760 days ago):
I cannot believe the negative comments on this magnificent feat of design & engineering I for one will definetly be flying in to experience it. Everything about The Titanic facinates me and many others I know.
nigel in antrim wrote (763 days ago):
As i said in my earler post Martin, there is more to life outside Belfast. Deaths on hospital trollies and they build this, need i say anymore. complete shame
big mark in east east, east belfast wrote (764 days ago):
dont be hopeing that you ll get a photo of yourself on the grand staircase because it wont be open to the public only for corporate and functions .good to know our monywas well spent
Brian in Belfast wrote (765 days ago):
All that nonsense for a pile of scrap at the bottom of the sea.
Sean in Portadown wrote (765 days ago):
Belfast's obsession with a boat that sunk knows no bounds!
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