In what has been described as “the most important development in Southampton for a generation,” a new museum to celebrate Southampton’s maritime past is being constructed by Kier Construction. The first temporary exhibition will be ‘Titanic, the Legend’ and when it opens on the 100th anniversary of the Titanic disaster in April 2012, the museum is expected to attract hundreds of thousands of tourists to the city.
Sea City Museum is part of Southampton’s emerging Cultural Quarter, which is set to bring more than 2000 direct jobs and an additional £21m of visitor spend to the city each year. Wilkinson Eyre are leading the design team for the project, which includes locally based consulting engineer Gifford, quantity surveyors Davis Langdon and architectural and design company Urban Salon. Focus Consultants are the project managers.
The £28m Sea City Museum is situated in the Grade II listed Magistrates’ Courts, which adjoin the Civic Centre. Galleries developed in Phase One of the project will focus on two main themes: ‘Southampton as a Gateway to the World’, which will recount the stories of people who have departed from or arrived in the port of Southampton over the last 2000 years; and ‘Southampton’s Titanic Story’, which will focus on the hidden history of RMS Titanic’s crew and explore what it was like to be in the Merchant Navy 100 years ago.
The museum will include a climb-aboard replica of the liner and visitors will have the opportunity to experience life from the perspective of the crew, many of whom were from Southampton.
The existing Southampton City Art Gallery will no longer house temporary exhibitions and will instead become a venue specifically used for the display of works from the city’s collection.
Councillor John Hannides, Cabinet member for leisure, culture and heritage, said: “More than 550 people from Southampton lost their lives and the vast majority were crew, so the theme we have adopted is very close to the hearts of the people of Southampton.
“The attraction will not only bring together the city’s heritage, it will attract thousands of visitors and create many new jobs. This investment demonstrates our ongoing plans to develop Southampton as the capital of the south.”
The project reached a key construction milestone in August 2011 when the final stages of the special exhibitions pavilion were nearing completion. In order to mark the significant stage in the project, Southampton City Council and main contractor Kier Southern held a topping out ceremony to celebrate reaching the highest point of the build.
Martin Orr, Kier Southern Director, said: “The whole team at Kier Southern are extremely pleased to be involved with this prestigious project for Southampton and are excited to mark reaching this significant milestone.
“Once complete, Sea City will showcase Southampton’s maritime past and the topping out of the nine-metre high pavilion is a celebration of how far the build has already come in achieving this.”
The RMS Titanic struck an iceberg on her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York City and sank on 15th April 1912 with 2223 people on board. Of these passengers 1517 would lose their lives, in part due to the inadequate provision of lifeboats.
Built at the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast in order to compete with the rival Cunard Line’s ‘Lusitiana’ and ‘Mauretania’, RMS Titanic was intended to be the largest and most luxurious ship to ever set sail. Construction began on 31st March 1909 and was funded by the American J.P Morgan and his international Mercantile Marine Co. The hull was launched on 31st May 1911, and the outfitting was complete by 31st March the following year.
RMS Titanic was equipped with two reciprocating four-cylinder triple-expansion steam engines and one low-pressure Parsons turbine, each driving a propeller. There were 29 boilers fired by 159 coal-burning furnaces that made a top speed of 23 knots (43km/h) possible.
The overall length of RMS Titanic was 882 feet and 9 inches (269.1m) and the height 59 feet (18m), whilst the ship had a breadth of 92 feet (28m) and a tonnage of 46,328 GRT.