D-day in £14.5m bid to bring Titanic artefacts '˜home' to Belfast

Campaigners working to ensure that more than 5,500 artefacts salvaged from the wreck of the Titanic are brought 'home' to Belfast are due to find out today if their £14.5m bid to purchase the collection is being taken seriously.

Wednesday, 25th July 2018, 8:15 am
Pictured (from left) at the launch of the Titanic Artefacts Collection campaign are Kevin Fewster, director of National Maritime Museum, Michael L Ulica, interim president and CEO of The National Geographic Society, Dr Robert Ballard, National Geographic explorer-at-large, and Conal Harvey, deputy chairman of Titanic Belfast

Lawyers representing the ‘Titanic Artefacts Collection – Bring Them Home’ campaign will make their case to the Florida court dealing with the case involving the unique collection, which has become available after the US company that currently owns the items filed for bankruptcy.

The campaign, which is being supported by Titanic movie director James Cameron, Dr Robert Ballard – the man who discovered the wreck of the ill-fated liner in 1985 – and National Geographic, was officially launched at Titanic Belfast yesterday.

It’s understood items in the collection include the cherub from the middle of the first class staircase, the ship’s bell, ship’s whistle and personal items from some of the passengers’ luggage.

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Judith Owens, chief executive of Titanic Belfast

“When we opened in 2012 we said that we wouldn’t take any artefacts that came from the debris field or from the Titanic wreck,” said Judith Owens, chief executive of Titanic Belfast.

“But the fact is they have been taken from the wreck and from the debris field and they are now at risk of being broken up, so we have launched this bid to try to bring them back to Belfast and to try to protect them and care for them, otherwise they are going to be sold off to the highest bidder.”

After today’s court hearing, Ms Owens says the campaigners will know if their bid is “being treated seriously” and can move to the next stage of the process.

It’s understood there are a number of other potential bidders vying to secure ownership of the collection.

The award-winning Titanic Belfast has already attracted 4.5 million people, but Ms Owens says the unique collection of artefacts would offer a new way of telling the Titanic story, helping to sustain and even increase visitor numbers.

The Bring Them Home campaign has already received widespread support, with the National Geographic Society pledging $500,000 towards it.

If the bid by Titanic Belfast, Titanic Foundation Limited, Royal Museums Greenwich and National Museums Northern Ireland is successful it will secure the entirety of the collection in public ownership in perpetuity.

The artefacts will displayed predominantly at Titanic Belfast and its environs, while some will be displayed at the Greenwich Museum in London.

Built in Belfast, RMS Titanic sank in the North Atlantic on its maiden voyage in April 1912 after hitting an iceberg. More than 1,500 people died.