It has been five years in the planning, but a century in the making.
Southampton’s new £15m SeaCity Museum is finally ready for business, in time to form the centrepiece of the city’s commemorations of the 100th anniversary of Titanic sailing from the city on its illfated maiden voyage.
Ahead of the official opening on April 10, the Daily Echo can reveal the first glimpses inside the attraction and its exhibits.
While on the outside, SeaCity has brought the distinctive extension to the side of the Civic Centre, inside, the old magistrates’ court has been transformed almost totally beyond recognition.
The museum is split into three sections. Two permanent areas tell the story of Southampton’s association with Titanic – including a sombre display bearing the names and many pictures of all 538 crew from the city who died in the tragedy – and its role as an international gateway.
Because of the centenary of the sinking, SeaCity’s new extension has been filled with a temporary display given over to the White Star liner, but the space will ultimately be used to house a variety of changing exhibitions.
The museum has a number of interactive exhibits, giving visitors the chance to pilot Titanic out of Southampton Water, see how they would cope fuelling the boilers with coal, and discover if they could spot an iceberg using century-old equipment.
One of the old courtrooms has been given over to recounting the story of the inquiry into what caused the disaster.
Maria Newbery, curator of maritime and local collections for Southampton City Council, said: “It’s great to see the reality of a project that has been in development so long.
There’s obviously lots of things we’d still like to change or add to, but we’re very proud of it.
“I think the Titanic gallery is very good, the disaster room is very moving with the testimonies of the people who were actually there, and it’s great to be able to show off our collection in such a lovely building.”