Today our major new exhibition Lusitania: life, loss, legacy opened at Merseyside Maritime Museum. The exhibition includes a resource, People of the Lusitania, which tells the stories of the passengers and crew on the ship’s final voyage. The resource is the result of many years of research by the Lusitania biographer and historian Peter Kelly, as he explains here:
“As a child I read about the sinking of the Lusitania and became fascinated with her story, especially as I grew up on the south-west coast of Ireland and was very familiar with the Old Head of Kinsale and Cobh (formerly Queenstown), which featured prominently in the story of her loss. To know that such a tragic event had occurred close to where I lived made me curious to learn all I could, initially about the events leading to her sinking, and later to her career as one of the greatest transatlantic liners of her age – the early 20th century.
In 1995 a school teacher and historian from Birkenhead – Graham Maddocks – began researching all those on board the final voyage of the Lusitania with the intention of publishing a book of their biographies. Graham had recently completed his book on the ‘Liverpool Pals’, the definitive history of The Kings (Liverpool Regiment) during the First World War, and was now turning his attention to the Lusitania.
In 1997 I became acquainted with Graham and it wasn’t long before he had recruited me to track down the graves of those on board the final voyage whose remains had been recovered, and also search for Irish newspaper reports on the tragedy. In July 2003 Graham passed away after a brief illness, leaving his work unfinished, and in 2004 I acquired some of his files from his family, with the intention of trying to complete the task Graham had started.
Since 2004 I have devoted much of my free time to researching the Lusitania, and particularly all 1,962 passengers and crew members who were on board when the great liner departed from New York on 1 May 1915 and sank just six days later, with the loss of 1,191 of those lives.
As my research progressed, I realised that the volume of information I had accumulated made a book impossible due to size and costs. Then the perfect opportunity to make the biographies of all those on board the final voyage of the Lusitania came along when I met Eleanor Moffat, a curator from the Merseyside Maritime Museum, and the idea of making all the biographies available as part of the exhibition Lusitania: life, loss, legacy was conceived.
I am very proud and excited to be associated with Lusitania: life, loss, legacy as it breaks new ground in remembering the actual people, both passengers and crew, who were involved in one of the most tragic and defining moments in 20th century maritime history, the history of the First World War, and the social and economic history of Liverpool.
You can see the result of my years of research in the People of the Lusitania resource on a kiosk in the exhibition and also on the website at www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/lusitaniapeople The resource currently includes the biographies of all of the crew and will soon also have the passenger biographies added. You can also see infographics showing the fate of different types of people on board and a map showing where the crew lived, which really brings home the huge effect that the sinking had on the city of Liverpool.”
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