New artefacts that will go on display in 2023 include an original deck chair from RMS Titanic and the world-famous violin belonging to the ship’s hero musician, Wallace Hartley, which has been described as one of the rarest and most iconic objects of the 20th century.
As part of the new collection, the world-leading visitor attraction will also exhibit a number of artefacts that have never been on public display before including a Plan of First Class accommodation, which was issued exclusively to First Class passengers to help them navigate the luxury liner, and belonged to Ellen Bird, the personal maid to Ida Straus, whose husband, Isidor, owned Macy’s department store in New York.
Other artefacts being displayed for the first time include items belonging to Malcolm Joakim Johnson – including his personal pocket watchwhich survived the sinking and was recovered from his body. The hands of the corroded Omega are frozen in time at 1.37am, the exact moment he was immersed into the icy waters of the North Atlantic. His manifest ticket which is stamped 10th April 1912; and a set of five rare original glass plate photographs of Titanic’s launch in Belfast on 31st May 1911 will also be on display.
An original Fosbery lifejacket, recovered from an unknown Titanic victim. Only twelve lifejackets remain in the world, out of a total of over 3,500 that were onboard the ship. This extremely rare artefact is manufactured from linen and cork and was recovered from the wreck site by the Mackay-Bennett, the first of four ships chartered by the White Star Line to search for bodies after the sinking. No records exist of the original wearer of this lifejacket.
Binocular box key
These keys belonged to Second Officer David Blair who was reassigned just before Titanic’s maiden voyage. Due to his hasty departure, he inadvertently kept the keys in his pocket, one of which belonged to the binocular box. Lookout Fred Fleet, who survived, told the official inquiry that if they had binoculars, they would have seen the iceberg sooner. When asked how much sooner, Fleet replied: ‘Enough to get out of the way.’
Plan of First Class accommodation, belonging to the Straus Party
An original First Class accommodation plan issued exclusively to First Class passengers to help them navigate the luxury liner. This one belonged to Ellen Bird, the personal maid to Ida Straus, whose husband Isidor owned Macy’s department store in New York. Miss Bird's cabin, C-97, is marked with a cross and was located directly opposite the Straus' lavish stateroom numbered C-55-57, which had its own bedroom and separate sitting room. Ida and Isidor Straus died side-by-side after Mrs Straus refused a place on a lifeboat to stay with her husband. Ida gave Ellen her fur coat and insisted that she got on a lifeboat. Ellen survived the sinking and kept the plan until she died.
Original photographs of Titanic’s launch
A previously unknown series of five very rare photographs of Titanic’s launch in Belfast on 31st May 1911. These images were taken by a local businessman and capture the hull moving down the slipways, the great gantry and launch platform.
An original deck chair from Titanic, recovered from the surface by the Mackay-Bennett, the first of four ships chartered by the White Star Line to search for bodies after the sinking. Bearing the distinctive insignia of the White Star Line on the headrest, and a brass nametag holder on the rear, this deck chair is one of only six known to have survived.
Photograph of Malcolm Joakim Johnson
A unique, first-generation studio photograph of Third Class passenger Malcolm Johnson. Originally from Sweden, Johnson lived in Minneapolis and owned a successful construction business. He travelled back to Sweden to buy his childhood home but failed, so he decided to return to America. He was scheduled to travel on the White Star liner Adriatic, but was transferred to Titanic at the last minute due to the coal strike of April 1912. He died in the sinking and his body was recovered by the Mackey-Bennett and taken to Halifax.
Pocket watch belonging to Malcolm Joakim Johnson
Johnson’s personal pocket watch survived the sinking and was recovered from his body. The hands of the corroded Omega are frozen in time at 1.37am, the exact moment he was immersed into the icy waters of the North Atlantic.
Manifest ticket belonging to Malcolm Joakim Johnson
A rare manifest ticket belonging to Malcolm Johnson stamped 10th April 1912. The ticket was originally issued for Adriatic, the vessel Johnson was due to have sailed on prior to his transfer to Titanic and would have been presented to immigration authorities upon arrival at Ellis Island. A document of great importance, it was one of the first things Mr Johnson retrieved from his cabin together with his luggage ticket. On the reverse are instructions in several languages describing how the ticket should be displayed upon landing at New York.
Letter to Wallace Hartley from his parents
One of the items recovered from Hartley’s body was this personal letter written by his parents the day before Titanic’s departure. In the letter Wallace’s parents are critical of his employer for making him go straight from one passenger liner to another without a proper break in between. His father affectionately signed off the letter with the words: ‘I hope that things will turn out for you alright.’
Violin belonging to Wallace Hartley
The world-famous violin belonging to Titanic’s hero musician, Wallace Hartley.
A gift from his fiancée Maria Robinson, the violin is German, circa 1880, with a tail plate bearing a silver hallmark Chester, 1910, engraved with the words: ‘For Wallace on the occasion of our engagement from Maria’. As one of the rarest and most iconic objects of the 20th century, this violin bears testimony to the courage and spirit of the bandsmen who brought hope and comfort until the very end. Their actions went on to inspire a popular expression into everyday language: ‘And the band played on’, to describe bravery in the face of adversity.
Letter to Wallace Hartley from a friend
A two-page letter from Wallace Hartley’s friend and fellow musician, who wrote: ‘Jolly good luck old chap. Would give more than a trifle to be with you. Don’t forget to drop me a line at 61, Lea Road. Bon Voyage and Bon Santé, Bill.’ The letter and other personal belongings were recovered along with Hartley’s body by the Mackey-Bennett.
Sheepskin coat, belonging to Mabel Bennett
This sheepskin coat was worn by Mabel Bennett who was a stewardess on Titanic. During the rescue she was in her nightdress and this coat was the first garment she grabbed for warmth. Bennett wore the heavy coat for protection from the cold as she boarded a lifeboat and waited through the night for Carpathia. The coat remained in Bennett’s family for almost 90 years and was subtly remodeled in the 1960s to give it a more contemporary style.
Walking cane, belonging to Ella White
This black-enameled walking cane, complete with electric light installed at the head, belonged to First Class passenger Ella White, a wealthy and eccentric widow. During the chaos of the night, she made her way into a lifeboat and appointed herself a sort of signalman, waving her cane fiercely about, alternatively helping and confusing everyone. Second Officer Charles Lightoller stated that her actions blinded crew members who were trying to load passengers into the lifeboats.
Silver hip flask, belonging to Helen Churchill Candee
This silver hip flask belonged to 53-year-old author Helen Churchill Candee. As the ship was sinking, she was helped into Lifeboat No. 6 by her First Class companion, Edward Kent. She did not have pockets in her coat, so entrusted Kent with her hip flask - a cherished family heirloom. Tragically, Kent did not make it to safety and died in the icy waters. The hip flask, however, did find its way back to Helen. It was recovered from Kent’s body, and returned to its owner after the authorities traced her family through the Churchill family motto engraved on the flask: ‘Faithful, but Unfortunate’.
Letter written by Reverend John Harper to the Mother Superior
A letter written onboard Titanic by the Reverend who went down with the ocean liner while preaching until the very end, John Harper. In this letter to the Mother Superior he wrote:
‘My Dear Mother Superior, I am penning this wee note just before we sail into Queenstown. The Warriors are with me and all of us are getting on well. Although they are with me you are not to think we are going to remain on the other side. Far from this we hope to be back in August and in Scotland in the Autumn. We had a very blessed time in Walworth during the last week. Quite a season of revival, I am confident there are going to be [piece missing]. Remember me to all the moucher both auld and young and tell them they might each one of them write their auld Pastor a wee note and he will send them a post card. Kindest love to yourself and all of the clan. Your loving auld Pastor John.’
Read more about the new galleries at Titanic Belfast here.