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Titanic Remembered – National Maritime Museum

Exhibition preview

THE NATIONAL Maritime Museum is marking the centenary of the sinking of RMS Titanic with a small exhibition and events programme highlighting the stories of some of those who survived the tragedy and exploring how that fateful night in 1912 has become the most famous maritime disaster in history.

Titanic Remembered is part of the National Maritime Museum’s on-going programme of small exhibitions covering both historic and contemporary issues, providing visitors with an opportunity to engage and reflect on maritime stories in a more intimate setting.

The Titanic Remembered exhibition showcases a small selection of letters, photographs and objects – highlights from a unique collection gathered by Walter Lord during his research for his bestselling 1955 book A Night to Remember, many of which are on display to the public for the first time.

Lord corresponded with over 60 Titanic survivors and their relatives, and his painstaking research resulted in poignant first-hand accounts of the disaster from a cross-section of those on board; passengers from all classes as well as crew members who survived the sinking.

He was gifted numerous personal artefacts by the survivors with whom he corresponded, and their compelling personal stories of survival were woven into his book and later recreated in William MacQuitty’s 1958 film adaptation of the same name – widely considered to be the best film portrayal of the disaster.

Artefacts on display include:

A letter from Victorine Perkins, maid to the wealthy Ryerson family, in which she describes to Lord her experiences of escaping the sinking ship and witnessing it slip beneath the waves.

A hooded woollen cape worn by Elizabeth Mellenger during the disaster, which she later used to keep an officer suffering from hyperthermia warm in the lifeboat.

A whistle which was reportedly used by survivors clinging to Lifeboat B to attract attention.

And the slippers worn by Edith Russell that night, along with her lucky musical toy pig, which she used to entertain children in Lifeboat 11 whilst awaiting rescue.

A number of survivors’ letters are also brought to life through an audio-visual display. These include:

An account from Quartermaster George Rowe, who describes how Captain Smith instructed him to fire distress rockets to attract attention to the stricken ship.

Third Class passenger Anna Sjoblom’s memories of how stairways were kept closed, preventing steerage passengers from easily accessing the deck.

And a description from Mrs Louis Ogden, a passenger on the Carpathia, of how the ship sped to the rescue of the Titanic and discovered only lifeboats of survivors, all in white lifebelts, and debris floating on the water.

Mrs Ogden’s husband took pictures from the Carpathia of these eerie scenes, some of which are also featured in the gallery.

Both the book and the film of A Night to Remember were hugely influential in fixing the story of Titanic in the public consciousness and Walter Lord became a leading expert on the disaster, advising James Cameron on his 1997 blockbuster, Titanic.

Titanic Remembered asks why the sinking has become such an iconic event, ingrained in popular culture. Memorabilia inspired by the disaster amassed by Lord over the years includes everything from Titanic swizzle sticks to adorn drinks at the 1958 film premier, to a Sinking of the Titanic board game.

In a year when Titanic is once again the subject of numerous television adaptations, documentaries and books, Titanic Remembered explores how the famous disaster evolved from historical tragedy to an icon of popular culture and entertainment, which continues to captivate audiences today.

Dates: March 8 to September 30, 2012

Opening Times: Daily from 10am to 5pm.

Admission: Free.

For more information call 020 8312 6565 or visit www.nmm.ac.uk.