On the 23rd of January I went to an exhibition about the Titanic and White Star Line at the Duke of Cornwall hotel, organised by Nigel Voisley. Nigel said that he was a Titanic enthusiast since he was seven and that most of the items on display were part of his collection, but he had hired a few to put on display, like the old rivet that came from the Titanic itself.
Some of the items on display included a scale model of the Titanic, a life jacket, and tons of everyday objects, like cutlery and crockery. The model of the ship was interactive and had two buttons hooked up to speakers, when these were pressed they played actual recordings of the Titanic’s horn and the sound of its engines. I thought it was a particularly fun part of the exhibition and the younger children seemed to enjoy playing with the buttons a lot.
The life jacket was a prototype used as a model for the lifejacket props used in James Cameron’s movie Titanic. I learned that the life jacket design was one of the leading causes of death on the Titanic. The lifejacket was cloth with pockets built into it filled with large chunks of cork. The cork was effective in keeping people afloat, but it was so effective that it wouldn’t sink at all below the water surface. This means that if someone fell or jumped into the water from over 10 feet, their bodies hit the water but couldn’t go under and so their necks would snap! This showed me how important it is to look for unintended effects when designing something because they could be serious, even fatal.
I was really interested in the designs on the White Star Line crockery, because they were really pretty. The designers had used only a couple of colours but the patterns were so intricate and delicate. I copied some of them down to use as inspiration.
One of the other exhibits I looked at was a rivet from the Titanic. I learned that not all of the rivets were made from the same metal, and this made the ship have weak points meaning the Titanic broke more easily, and was one of the causes of the disaster. This taught me that choice of materials is really important in designing.
Another object I looked at was a commemorative print on tissue paper. Nigel explained that White Star Line didn’t take responsibility for the sinking of the Titanic and so survivors and families of the victims didn’t get any compensation from them. At that time there was no welfare system so that left many of those families destitute. In order to raise money for these families people and organizations would make and sell objects like this commemorative paper.
The exhibition was brilliant and I learnt loads from my visit and from talking to Nigel, who is very passionate about the Titanic. Nigel gave some of the children in our group Commemorative Medals for doing some drawing of the Titanic and J was lucky enough to earn one.
After the exhibition I went down to Millbay Pier to look at the memorial plaque. The plaque was made with just a few colours but they worked very well together, and there were lots of tiny details and texture to it. The plaque made me think of some of the linocuts and blockprints I have seen. There are also plaques there for the Fourth Eddystone Lighthouse and Isambard Kingdom Brunel.
Unfortunately my photos from the day have shadows across them but I do recommend a visit to see these plaques if you can.
After I got home we found the movie Titanic on Netflix and watched it together. It’s a really long film and the soundtrack was repetitive and too emotional, but once the disaster kicked off I really started to enjoy the film. When I was watching it I was reminded of the different facts I had learnt earlier at the exhibition and it definitely made the film more interesting!