On a recent trip to Belfast, we visited the Titanic Experience.
Located a short trip from the city centre, the exhibition lies, quite fittingly, in the old industrial dock area, for so long the life blood of the city.
As you arrive you see the old yellow Harland and Wolff cranes, nicknamed Samson and Goliath; what better sentinels could there be?
New Meets Old
The centre itself is of course very modern, the style of the design reflecting a new take on the industrial old.
Inside it is huge, and as ever in Belfast and Northern Ireland in general, the staff were very helpful and kind.
Going around, however, although there were several reconstructions of the kind of cabins that could be had on board the Titanic, we were a little disappointed that we couldn’t ‘interact’ with them more.
Lack of Interaction
For instance, you could not walk into the third class cabin. Everything is behind glass, or perspex. Perhaps they don’t want things to disappear, shall we say, considering the volume of tourists they must get.
And also, considering that this event, which occurred in April 1912, was one of the greatest human tragedies of the 20th century, I don’t think there’s quite enough about that human element. Maybe we’ve seen the film too often.
There is a short automated ride around a kind of reconstruction of the shipyard at its height, with all the noises and sights you might have seen. However, I think this is too short and did not convey enough atmosphere for me.
I don’t think it’s quite on a par with the Yorvik museum in York in this regard, for instance, where you get a better sense, I feel, of what Viking York might have been like a thousand years ago – stronger smells and all.
Just across the way in an old dry dock, lies the SS Nomadic, a much smaller ship, but which allows you to explore more of what it must have been like aboard the Titanic on its only voyage. The styling and the sense of the pre-war period is evocative.
So overall, I think the Titanic Experience does a good job. It’s well put together with lots of detail. There is plenty to keep people of all ages occupied for a couple of hours, on several levels. You get a strong sense, too, of how fundamental ship building is to Belfast, the industry which turned a small town into a boom town in the 19th century.
Overall I would give it 7.5 out of 10.
copyright Leofwine Tanner 2019