After grabbing a Groupon deal to the Titanic visitor attraction I thought it was about time I finally went and visited since it’s been open for a while now and I only live round the corner. I’d heard a lot of good reports although a few people had commented that there wasn’t much from the Titanic there, which given that it sunk seemed pretty self-explanatory to me! With the Groupon deal we’d got a free audio guide, which I was quite pleased about. I’m the person that listens to everything on the audio guide, even the extra information that’s hidden away, because I really like both learning facts and pressing buttons! At the start of the exhibition there were sections for each of the main industries in Belfast during Victorian times, with reading panels but also lots of photographs and interactive games to play. All the key players in Belfast industry were shown on an interactive display so you could see how they were linked to different companies and other businessmen, which I found really interesting as I hadn’t realised how many close links there were in Belfast industry.
Then the exhibition explored the tradition of shipbuilding in Belfast and the growth in travel as well as exploring the reasons why people emigrated. There were some great stories of the journeys people took and why, inside suitcases that had representations of what they may have brought with them. This was one of my favourite parts of the exhibition as I like to hear personal stories of why people emigrated, is it something from home pushing them to leave, maybe unemployment, or is there something in their destination pulling them there, perhaps joining other family members?
My favourite part of the exhibition was the interactive floor plans of the Titanic, I thought this was really impressive. All the plans are projected onto the floor, around the edges there are interactive screens that you can use to explore the Titanic in more detail to see how it was constructed and laid out. But I preferred standing on the map, it really emphasised the huge scale of ship and it was fun hopping around the floor trying to catch the section you wanted to look at!
After looking at the maps of the ship we went up in the crane lift to find out more about what Titanic looked like on the inside and what happened on that fateful night. I found the panoramic tour of how the rooms on Titanic would have looked really appealing and it made me nostalgic for the glamour of the early twentieth century. There were reproductions of what each class of cabin would have looked like, as well as photos from the ship, and even one of the original menus showing how a first class passenger would have eaten on board.
There were lots of interactive displays giving information about what happened to the passengers when the ship sunk, and the rescue efforts afterwards. I didn’t know much about the Titanic story after the sinking and rescue of survivors so it was fascinating to learn about the recovery of the bodies and the process of identifying them.
At the end of the exhibition there was a huge cinema screen showing a film of the exploration of the Titanic wreck and some information about marine conservation. This was where I discovered one of my new favourite words, ‘rusticles’, which are the icicle-like pieces that hang from the wreckage and eat away at the iron in the ship. When we had finished looking round we realised that we’d actually spent almost three hours looking round without really noticing the time going by. I think that’s a good indicator of the level of detail involved, and also how much is covered in the exhibition. Titanic would be interesting for both children and adults because there are enough interactive activities that kids can try out to explore industry, how Titanic was built and what happened to keep them busy while adults read more of the information. The only thing that could have been improved was that more seating for visitors could have been provided, there weren’t that many places to stop and have a rest, and it did get quite tiring by the end of the exhibition, so some stools at key points would be great.