£14m bid launched to secure collection of Titanic artefacts and bring them to Belfast

Movie director James Cameron and world-renowned oceanographer Dr Bob Ballard are among those backing a £14 million bid to buy a collection of more than 5,500 artefacts from the Titanic wreck site and bring them to Northern Ireland.

Tuesday, 24th July 2018, 12:30 pm
Titanic film director James Cameron with the ship's wheel from the movie, at the Titanic Belfast museum. A £14 million bid to buy a collection of more than 5,500 artefacts from the Titanic wreck site and bring them to Northern Ireland has been launched. Pic by Paul Faith/PA Wire

The rare collection has become available after the US company that currently owns the items filed for bankruptcy.

Titanic Belfast, the Titanic Foundation, National Museums Northern Ireland and the National Maritime Museum have teamed up to launch the multi-million pound Titanic Artefacts Collection campaign.

The campaign, which was launched in Belfast today, has the backing of the Titanic film director James Cameron, and Dr Bob Ballard, who discovered the wreck of Titanic in 1985.

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The Titanic Belfast museum. Pic by John Walton/PA Wire

Dr Ballard was among those who spoke at the launch event at Titanic Belfast.

The £14.5m bid will ensure that the collection is not broken up, bringing it back home to Belfast, securing its longevity through public ownership and protecting and preserving the legacy of Titanic.

The famous ship sank after hitting an iceberg on its maiden voyage in 1912, resulting in the deaths of more than 1,500 people.

Mr Cameron helped make the ship world famous after releasing the film in December 1997.

The Hollywood director, who has added his support to the bid through his Avatar Alliance Foundation, said he feels a “deep responsibility” to Titanic.

His first expedition to the wreck site was in 1995 as part of the move project. He has since made 33 dives to the Titanic site over a 10-year period.

“You feel responsible to get the story right and honour the dead and the tragedy,” he said.

“I went to the wreck site [in 1995] for a purpose, to film the Titanic for a movie but I came away with a sense of a greater purpose which is to tell that story by whatever means.

“Once Titanic is in your life, it doesn’t leave easily.

“When the issue of the artefacts came up, Bob Ballard contacted me and said this was happening and I said we should do something do about it.”

The director worked with Dr Ballard and organised a meeting with Conal Harvey, the deputy chairman of Titanic Belfast, at the National Geographic Society headquarters in the US a year ago.

The team discussed the idea of acquiring and repatriating the artefacts.

Following the meeting, the National Geographic Society pledged 500,000 dollars (£380,000) to help with the fundraising to back up the offer.

Mr Cameron added: “One of the concerns is that the collection would be broken up, sold privately, the bankruptcy court might award the company the opportunity to break up the collection, to sell it piecemeal and it would disappear from the public eye.

“That’s why people who feel some responsibility around Titanic have stepped up.

“If it’s sold privately that would be wrong, it’s a part of the world heritage. It’s an incredible piece of history.

“I spent more time on the ship than the captain did,” he added.

“From the first moment we raised this idea it was a dream, but I think the chances are very good and certainly it’s moved from an idea to a dream to a partnership.”

He said the artefacts will help boost Northern Ireland’s economy and tourism.

“Because Titanic is such a world-wide known event, I can’t think of a better place for the majority of artefacts to be.”