Museum team builds full-size reconstruction of 30 ft Titanic lifeboat in Falmouth

The National Maritime Museum Cornwall has commissioned the build of a full-size reconstruction of Lifeboat 13 for its major new exhibition, Titanic Stories, which will examine the stories arising from the Titanic’s momentous sinking on 15 April 1912, re-appraising many of the myths that still linger around one of the most tragic events of the 20th century.

Our Director, Richard Doughty, says:

The National Maritime Museum Cornwall is known for its collection of small boats, so why are we telling a story about what was in 1912 the world’s largest ship? It’s because everything we know, or think we know, comes from the 706 people who left the ship in the lifeboats. Titanic Stories is a small boat story.”

Guest co-curator of the exhibition Dr Eric Kentley said:

The Titanic carried fourteen lifeboats of the type the Museum is reconstructing.  We chose the number 13 partly because there’s a very good account written of what happened in the boat and how it nearly came to grief – by the English schoolmaster Lawrence Beesley. But Boat 13 also helps us examine some of the Titanic myths, such as ‘women and children first’. Looking at who was in the boat we begin to see a more complicated picture.”

The exhibition will present a luggage label for every named person on the boat (55 people) displaying their name, age, and why they were on the Titanic. Of the 55 people on the lifeboat the exhibition will show that 24 of the 55 were crew, 21 were 3rd class, 9 were 2nd class, 1 was first class and also that the 24 crew were men, plus 11 were male passengers, 14 were female passengers and 6 were  children, thus telling a story that challenges existing assumptions.

A living exhibit

The lifeboat is currently being built, in house, in the museum’s boat building workshop, situated towards the back of the museum. Visitors should make sure to come and take a closer look at the team in action, and the team are ready to answer questions and show people around the build.

The in-house build is part of a programme of reconstructions of historical craft in the Museum’s boatbuilding workshop.

The Museum’s boat workshop is managed by Boat Collections Manager Andy Wyke and Workshop Manager Mike Selwood. The build is being led by professional and accomplished local boat builder Andrew Nancarrow supported by Advanced Apprentice in Boat Conservation Reuben Thompson and a small team of museum volunteers and students from Falmouth Marine School.

Extensive research

The Museum team has carried out extensive research to ensure the boat is as faithful a reconstruction as possible. This boat is one of a number of built in the museum’s boat building workshop and something the Museum is keen to do more of, continuing to build representations or reconstructions of important craft.

Mike Selwood Boat Workshop Manager said:

‘Our ambition is to develop a respected centre for restoration, conservation and repair of historical vessels. And we’re slowly building up that resource. Our core responsibility is the maintenance and care of the nations small boat collection, but alongside that we’re developing a reputation for keeping alive traditional boatbuilding skills.’

Andy Nancarrow Boat builder said:

‘This project is important because it brings history alive. The research process gives better understanding into the past and develops a deeper understanding of the subject. During the actual build, which takes place in the museum’s boat building workshop, we become a living exhibit. Visitors like to come back and see the weekly progress, and they are able to come into the workshop and chat with the team as we work, asking us questions.’

‘Schools and younger children also get involved. They ask some great questions, and it really brings the subject to life for them.’

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