Today, we visited the Titanic museum in Belfast. We were welcomed in by the beautiful architecture of the building, which appears to be the crown jewel of the east side of the Belfast riverbank. As I groggily entered the museum, I was confronted with an embarrassing fact: I was one of the only people on the trip who had never seen the 1997 film adaptation of the Titanic disaster. The film was released when I was one month old, so I missed the initial run, and I’ve never gone back and watched it since. Luckily, I have learned some basic facts about the disaster in school, so I wasn’t completely clueless coming into this experience.
I had no idea that the history of the Titanic was so closely tied to Belfast’s economic boom. Around the turn of the 20th century, Belfast was a booming metropolis, as this was the time period when British people were moving to the Irish city in droves. It seemed like people moved to Belfast because both men and women found jobs there; men worked on constructing ships like the Titanic, while women found work in linen and clothing factories. Derry also had a robust history of clothing factories staffed by women, so this was probably a common industry that brought British women to Northern Ireland.
Of course, the Titanic’s building is also tied to the boom in American immigration around the same time. The purpose of the ship, after all, was to stop in England and France and transport passengers from there to the United States. Of course, this “unsinkable” ship did not achieve its goal, as it tragically hit an iceberg in the Atlantic Ocean and crashed. The museum was truly a tragic experience, as we viewed the stories of passengers who boarded this ill-fated trip. The Titanic tragedy did irreparable damage to the lives of a lot of people, and taught us all a lot of lessons as well. Despite dealing with the weight of the situation, the Titanic museum also kept an optimistic tone, with interactive electronic displays, an amusement park ride, and a robust gift shop of Titanic gear. As always, the gift shop was full of many products branded with the word “Titanic”, some seemingly incongruous with the subject at hand. Perhaps the strangest example I saw was Titanic-branded chocolate.
Update on my interest in UK road signs: I found out about one sign today. It’s a white sign with a black slash over it, and it appears alongside roadways across the UK, often accompanied by the following text: “Thank you for driving carefully.” Turns out, this sign represents the national speed limit, which is not actually one speed limit, but three (30, 60, and 70 MPH) for different types of roads.