In the summer, I visited Belfast’s stunning Titanic Exhibition. It’s housed in a spectacular building that references the White Star Line logo (and the iceberg which destroyed this vessel). A trip here opens up the social and economic history of Belfast, as well as exploring how the Titanic has entered popular culture. The city’s industrial heritage is never far away, with the iconic Samson and Goliath cranes from the Harland and Woolf shipyard standing guard.
It’s located in a part of Belfast which has seen many changes since I lived not that far away in the 1990s. This whole area has seen much regeneration, with the Titanic studios being the Northern Ireland home for Game of Thrones filming (the yellow and grey building below).
Back to the stunning exhibition building, which opened in 2012, in time to commemorate Titanic’s 100th anniversary.
It’s set right at the head of the slipway from where the Titanic and its Harland and Woolf sister ships were launched.
Inside, it’s a cavernous creation that recreates the early 20th Century Belfast of the Titanic’s construction.
Then it’s in through the (real) gates of Harland and Woolf to learn more about how ships were built. A replica of the gigantic Arrol gantry takes the visitor to a dark ride through the shipyard, where there’s a sense of the conditions in which the shipyard workers toiled.
The difference between first and third class accommodation on the ship is vividly bought to life with replica cabins, while the ship’s eventual sinking is handled with sensitivity.
Titanic’s role in popular culture and the aftermath of its demise are also explored. There’s an atmospheric double height cinema experience that showcases the resting place of the vessel and the exploration still going on there. Very poignant. The site also looks forward, exploring how the city’s shipbuilding industry has evolved, and to the future of marine exploration.
All in all a fantastic visit with one ship’s construction used as a jumping off point to learn more about Belfast and much more.
It’s also possible to have a walking tour of the area, including the drawing office where Titanic and its sister ships were designed, and the tender ship for Titanic, SS Nomadic. We decided to leave those for our next visit!