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Raise the Titanic! …to the second floor

14 November 2014 by Jen

Titanic Model Case Being Dismantled

Dismantling the case

One of National Museums Liverpool’s most iconic objects – the Titanic builder’s model, has been on the move.  It has been on display for the last 8 years in the Titanic, Lusitania and the Forgotten Empress gallery. This gallery is now closed and will open again in March 2015 as a new gallery Lusitania: Life, Loss, Legacy.  The Titanic model has been moved up to the second floor to our award winning exhibition Titanic and Liverpool: the untold story.

But hang on a minute, just imagine the preparation and planning that goes into moving a very large (6 metres long, 1 metre wide, 1 metre tall), heavy (over half a ton), old (built in 1910), fragile (some parts are made from paper and card), and valuable object like this! For the last few months, colleagues from across divisions (Registration, Curatorial, Estates Management, Ship and Historic Models Conservation, Ship Keeping and Engineering, Exhibitions, Visitor Services) have been working hard on putting in place the logistics to ensure that the model was moved in the best and safest way possible:

Crate being built around the model while the Ship and Historic Models conservation team check the model.

The Ship and Historic Models conservation team at work

Stage one

First, the gallery had to be closed off and a safe working area established around the model. Then the huge case built around the model had to be carefully dismantled and moved up piece by piece to the second floor. Next a specially made crate was built around the model, again piece by piece as it was so big. When that  was ready the whole first floor of the museum had to be closed so that the crated model could be carefully moved through to the end of the building.

Stage two

The only way to move the model up a floor is to take it out of a large window at the end of the building. A doorway had to be temporarily dismantled to allow this, and a huge gantry erected on scaffolding built outside the window. The model was carefully moved onto the gantry.  Next the model was carefully lifted down by crane onto the ground, whilst the height of the scaffold was increased up to the second floor window. Then, the model was lifted back up onto the gantry, rolled into the building, placed into position on gallery and unpacked from the crate.

Model in crate being craned out of the building.

Craning the model out

Stage three

Our Historic Models Conservation team then spent a few days checking the ship model for any damage and giving it a bit of a spring clean before the case was erected back up around the model, and the gallery will open again tomorrow, on Saturday 15 November.

This kind of project relies on the skills and experience of many people and departments across National Museums Liverpool, many of whom work quietly away from the gaze of the public to ensure that our exhibitions, displays and events can be produced and enjoyed by the public.  Step forward all and take a bow!

Some more information on the Titanic ship model:

  • The model is the unique, full builder’s model of Olympic/Titanic.  It was built at the Harland & Wolff shipyard in Belfast at the same time as the sister ships concerned. Originally named Olympic, it was used by White Star to advertise both ships and was originally fitted with internal lighting.
  • After the Titanic disaster the model was altered to represent Britannic, the third ship of the class, which was sunk while serving as a hospital ship during the First World War.  The rearrangement of windows on the upper decks was the most lasting change made. In the 1920s the model was altered again to represent the refitted Olympic.
  • The combined changes mean that the model now more closely resembles Titanic than either of her sister ships. Having later been displayed at Blackpool’s Winter Gardens, the model was given to Liverpool Museums in 1951, and is displayed as Titanic.
  • The model was used for research for the British film ‘A Night To Remember’ in 1957.

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