I have to admit that I always enjoy visiting Maritime Museums and recently I have had the privilege of exploring two of the UK’s finest. At the beginning of May I went to Southampton’s Sea City Museum which is situated in the city’s Civic Centre building.
The Maritime Museum was moved here a few years ago from its previous location in the Old Wool House opposite the Isle of Wight ferry terminal. The new location affords much more space than the Old Wool House and this has been used to great effect. There are two permanent exhibitions, The Titanic Story and Gateway to the World. The Titanic exhibition gives an insight into the lives of the crew aboard the Titanic, many of whom were Southampton residents. The Gateway to the World recounts the stories of people who have departed from or arrived in the port of Southampton over the last 200,000 years, from the earliest settlers to the stories of people living in the city today.
For the next year there is a further exhibition entitled Port Out, Southampton Home. This really is an outstanding exhibition which includes a wide range of rarely seen items from the city’s maritime collection, including ship models, posters, photographs and ephemera from the great liners such as menu cards and souvenirs.
A few days later I was in Belfast and had the pleasure of visiting the renowned Titanic exhibition there. This a real treat, so well done, with stories about the men that built the ill-fated vessel. The pride of the men at Harland & Wolff in building the ship really comes through. Apart from the Titanic exhibition itself, the former Cherbourg based White Star tender, Nomadic can be visited as well as the Thompson Graving Dock and the Pump House.
These two museums are a credit to their designers and researchers and I strongly advise a visit to either of them if you happen to be in those cities.
In contrast, last year I was in Kaohsiung, Taiwan and was delighted to see that they had a maritime museum there. Most of the great ships of the immediate post-war period ended their days at the hand of the breakers in this city so I was expecting to find some interesting memorabilia at least. However, I was shocked to find no mention whatsoever of the port’s shipbreaking history!