New TitanicA exhibit in Belfast is attracting visitors

TitanicA Exhibition—The People’s Story is a new exhibit that opened on May 31, 2011 at the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum in
Belfast.  It’s a timely exhibit since the centennial of the ship sailing and sinking occurs in April 2012, which is expected to be a banner year for tourism in Northern Ireland.

The museum brings together social, cultural and personal stories from the Titanic.  Special exhibits include artifacts recovered from the ship including a porthole, hot water bottle, part of the hull, part of the engine, internal telegraph system, and a soup tureen.

Why is there such curiosity in the Titanic?  It’s likely a combination of faster news reporting, intense publicity prior to sailing, high profile, wealthy people on board, and increased public interest in the progressive ship.  In the museum you’ll discover why the Titanic was built in Belfast, how local enterprise and skills produced the exceptional vessel, and personal stories of tragic loss.

TitanicA, Belfast
Actual porthole recovered from Titanic

Interactive displays feature video with stories told from different points of view such as an employee of White Star Line, the company that owned the ship, and passengers who survived. You can see plans of the decks on Titanic with a layout of the ship and magnifying circle to enlarge views of specific areas. The museum executes its mission well and draws people into the experience using technology to enhance understanding of spaces and events.  While there has been plenty of local interest, the exhibit is expected to attract international visitors next year.

In 1900 Belfast was one of most prosperous industrial cities in the world. Shipbuilding made use of design skills and quality workmanship to produce world-class steam ships, which is shown in the Transportation Museum, another area of the National Museum of Northern Ireland complex.  It includes trains from the period with mannequins depicting scenes of the day and folks in costume talking with visitors about traveling by train.

Ballycultra Town aims to tie in lives of people who lived and worked in early 1900s in Belfast—their daily routines, activities, and stories in the age of Titanic. As you stroll thru the
reconstructed town, you’ll experience shipyard workers’ homes (12,000 to 13,000
men were employed to build the Titanic), a carpenter’s workshop, coal Yard, bicycle
shop, 300-year-old farmhouse, and three churches. All buildings were moved there
and rebuilt brick by brick as they occurred originally in 1900-1910. Basket weavers, riverters, typesetters, cloth spinners, and more are depicted by men and women in costume who are happy to share experiences with visitors walking about the town.

Wear sensible walking shoes and bring an umbrella (Ireland is known for its daily showers) since most exhibits are outdoors and the complex covers a sprawling 170 acres (no, you won’t need to traverse that large a span). It’s a great family destination—educational, fun, and active. Take your time strolling through the town and rural setting and have lunch on premises if you need a break. Open every day except Monday. www.nmni.com/uftm

Photos by Beverly Burmeier

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