Material Memories

By Marius Kwint; Christopher Breward et al. | Go to book overview

twelve
The Titanic: An Object
Manufactured for Exhibition at
the Bottom of the Sea
Tag Gronberg

Objects related to the Titanic acquired a cult status virtually from the moment of the ship's sinking in April 1912 (Figure 12.1). There are accounts of survivors deciding to keep their lifejackets upon arrival in New York, but perhaps even more revealing is the fact that the crowds on the New York quays awaiting the arrival of the Carpathia with its 700 Titanic passengers included a substantial number of souvenir hunters. The Titanic lifeboats were apparently stripped overnight. According to its cargo manifest, the Titanic was not a ‘treasure ship’: apart from the personal belongings of its wealthier passengers, it did not carry a particularly valuable cargo. ‘Value’, in the case of objects identified with the Titanic, resides in their association with the sinking of the ship, and in particular with death. Such artefacts involve a financial as well as a curiosity value. Not only private collectors, but also certain dealers specialize in Titanic memorabilia, and the estimated price of, for example, a postcard sent from the ship is about £3,000.1 The Titanic market can even incorporate materials not directly related to the ship itself, as in the case of the living-room fittings in a Southport

____________________
1
Peter Johnson, ‘Awash with Titanic Memories, Collector's File’ in the Personal Finance section of the Sunday Times, 7 Aug. 1994, 7. A variety of Titanic artefacts were sold at a Christie's South Kensington Maritime sale in May 1998; nearly all the lots exceeded their reserve price. See the Auction Results for Sale No. 7986 Sale Code MAR.

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