SeaCity Museum is housed in the west wing of Southampton’s civic centre in a space previously hosting a magistrates court and police station. The courtrooms are now exhibition halls, and the prison cells, toilet facilities.
I met Lucy at the museum’s ticketing shop and explained to her about what I was doing – I asked her if she’d left her lunch on the bus that day. She hadn’t.
I gave her time to think about where/who to send me to next while I explored SeaCity Museum.
SeaCity’s main permanent exhibition, is ‘Southampton’s Titanic Story,’ telling about life and work aboard the Titanic, which made its ill-fated maiden voyage from Southampton in 1912.
Three quarters (715) of Titanic’s crew had links to a Southampton address. Most of them died when the ship sank, resulting in unprecedented local impact. Printed on the floor of one of the exhibition rooms is a city map, speckled with red spots marking all the households who lost a family member in the disaster. There is also a poignant montage of pictures of all the crew members, with their name, age and job descriptions provided.
In the disaster room the story of the ship’s final hours is told by local survivors via audio interviews.
Included among the rescued artefacts on display is the pocket watch beloved by Laura. It belonged to steward Sidney Sedunary and is stopped at ten minutes to two, half an hour before the Titanic sinks. The watch was recovered from Sidney’s floating body by the crew of the Mackay Bennett, a few days after Titanic’s sinking.
Titanic isn’t the only maritime tragedy memorialised at SeaCity; also displayed is the large bronze bell from the troopship SS Mendi, wrecked off the Isle of Wight in 1917 after a high speed collision with a Royal Mail packet boat. The ship sank in under 20 minutes with a loss of 30 crew and 616 African troops
But the museum isn’t only about memorialising maritime disasters, a further permanent exhibition showcases Southampton’s maritime history and tells how the city grew across the centuries as a result of the impact of trade and migration.
My tour through SeaCity finished at the museum’s temporary Game Plan exhibition, featuring games from the V&A’s national collection of board games. There I played a quiz to determine my “game face” – was I a sore loser, a gloating winner, a cheater, a distracted gamer or a goody two-shoes? I self-categorised as a ‘gloating winner.’
I returned to Lucy at the ticketing shop. Lucy had decided on where to send me. She told me to visit the John Hansard Gallery when it opens in May and gave to the assemblage the “game face” pin badge of a gloating winner.