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Historic campaign launched to bring Titanic artefacts home
Passenger liner 'Titanic', underway at Queenstown (now Cobh), Ireland ® National Maritime Museum, London.

BELFAST.- The Titanic champions pledged their support at the event which formally launched a $20m campaign by Royal Museums Greenwich, National Museums Northern Ireland, Titanic Belfast and Titanic Foundation Limited for the 5,500 artefacts, which were recovered from the seabed by salvors, over the course of seven deep sea expeditions between 1987 and 2004.

The National Geographic Society and National Geographic Explorers-at-Large, Dr. Robert Ballard, the famed oceanographer who discovered the RMS Titanic wreck, and James Cameron, film-maker and deep sea explorer, are backing an innovative collaboration between four organisations to purchase the entirety of the Titanic Artefacts Collection and bring them home to the UK and Ireland.

At Titanic Belfast, on the exact location where RMS Titanic was designed, built and launched, National Geographic Society Interim President and CEO Michael L. Ulica announced the Society’s support via a pledge of $500,000 toward the funds required to complete the bid.

The unique collaboration aims to protect, preserve and unite all the artefacts, which are currently at risk of being split up and sold. The current owners of the collection have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the United States.

If successful, the bid will secure the entirety of the Titanic Artefacts Collection in public ownership in perpetuity. Additionally, the organisations seek to obtain the responsibility of salvor in possession and assign this to the National Maritime Museum and National Museum Northern Ireland to ensure the protection of the RMS Titanic wreck site.

In his video statement, James Cameron, director of the Academy Award-winning 1997 movie Titanic and National Geographic Explorer-at-Large, said, “The story of the Titanic has captivated the imaginations, hearts and minds of people around the world. It’s played an important role in my own life - as a film-maker, a deep sea explorer and as an advocate of deep-ocean research.

“Along with National Geographic, Titanic Belfast, Titanic Foundation, Royal Museums Greenwich, National Museums Northern Ireland and my friend, Dr. Robert Ballard, I’m proud to support the campaign to bring the Titanic Artefacts Collection home.

“The sinking of the Titanic was a heart-breaking moment in history. Securing the irreplaceable collection of artefacts—protecting and preserving them for future generations by placing them in the public trust—is a unique and important opportunity to honour the 1,503 passengers and crew who died.”

Dr. Robert Ballard, the former US Naval Commander and National Geographic Explorer-at-Large who discovered the wreck site, said, “I’m lending my voice to this campaign as it is the right thing to do. This bid is the only viable option to retain the integrity of the Titanic collection. The collection deserves to be returned home to where its journey began.”

The campaign also has the support of the National Geographic Society, which has built a legacy of ground breaking research, exploration, education and storytelling dedicated to the Titanic disaster.

National Geographic Society's Interim President and CEO Michael L. Ulica said: “The Titanic disaster was an unprecedented tragedy that captivated the world and still resonates with many people today. The repatriation of the shipwreck's artefacts presents an historic opportunity to honour the Titanic's lasting legacy and the memories of all who perished.”

He added: “The National Geographic Society is proud to pledge $500,000 toward the campaign to acquire the Titanic Artefacts Collection. As the first private donor to contribute to this effort, National Geographic is excited to be part of this latest chapter of the Titanic’s history and to support the initiative to bring these artefacts home.”

Kevin Fewster, Director of National Maritime Museum, which will be joint custodian of the collection, said: “In early 2017, when I heard the news of the current owner’s bankruptcy, I felt it was our duty to try to save the collection as a whole. As Britain’s National Maritime Museum, with the largest maritime collection, we are by virtue of our facilities, including the Prince Philip Maritime Collection Centre, and our internationally recognised expertise, in a position to exhibit, conserve, curate, manage and generally care for the collection when artefacts are not on display here or in Belfast. Alongside our partners, we will ensure that the collection is protected and preserved for generations to come.”

Conal Harvey, Deputy Chairman of Titanic Belfast, which was voted the World’s Leading Tourist Attraction in 2016, the principle venue for the public display of artefacts, said: “Titanic Belfast, which is located on the exact spot where the RMS Titanic was designed, built and launched, has established itself worldwide as the home of Titanic. These artefacts, which are of great historical significance, are at risk of being spilt up, sold to private collectors and lost as an identifiable collection. Therefore, we are campaigning to bring these artefacts home, where they will protected and preserved, through public ownership and on display for the world to enjoy.”

Kathryn Thomson, CEO of National Museums Northern Ireland, the co-custodian of the collection said: “Titanic is a huge part of Northern Ireland’s history and is renowned worldwide, therefore, as custodians of our national collection we are working to ensure this collection’s permanent care and preservation for the public benefit. If our bid fails, history, and this part of Northern Ireland’s history, might go on the auction block and disappear from the public domain.”

Kerrie Sweeney, CEO of Titanic Foundation Limited said: “Titanic Foundation Limited have worked very hard to establish Belfast as home of the RMS Titanic, we are committed to celebrating the city’s maritime heritage and the people who built RMS Titanic and over a thousand other ships on Queen’s Island whilst commemorating those who lost their lives during the tragic sinking. For us, returning the artefacts home is not only a symbolic gesture but a method of safeguarding the future of the artefacts. It will also bolster the local economy, significantly enhance our iconic heritage waterfront and support Belfast and Northern Ireland to achieve its full tourism potential.”

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