UK Museums Pledge $20 Million to Save Thousands of ‘Titanic’ Artifacts—and James Cameron Is on Board, Too

A group of British museums is hoping to keep the collection from being broken up and sold off.

James Cameron at the Titanic Belfast Museum in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Cameron along with producer John Landau opened the first exhibit dedicated to the film at the world's largest Titanic museum, featuring props and costumes from Cameron's personal collection. Photo: Peter Muhly/AFP/GettyImages.

A group of British museums has made a $20 million offer to buy more than 5,000 relics from the Titanic—which sank in the North Atlantic more than 100 years ago—in an effort to prevent the collection from being broken up and sold off piecemeal. Filmmaker James Cameron, who directed the 1997 Oscar-winning film Titanic starring Leonardo Dicaprio and Kate Winslet, is also supporting the effort.

The current owner of the collection, Premier Exhibitions, which had toured the artifacts around the world in a string of blockbuster exhibitions, has declared bankruptcy and is currently in the midst of reorganization proceedings in US Bankruptcy Court. Premier has sought permission to sell off star items individually, according to a report in The Guardian.

Image courtesy of Kim Yok G. via Flickr

Image courtesy of Kim Yok G. via Flickr

The objects were removed from the seabed over the course of decades of deep-sea diving. They include parts of the sunken ship, furnishings from the cabins, personal possessions of passengers and crew, and fittings from the luxurious first-class cabins. If the museum consortium bid succeeds, the institutions will also try to acquire responsibility for protecting the physical wreck of the ship itself, which lies at a depth of 12,000 feet on the ocean bed.

The museums include the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich, Titanic Belfast—which is the site where the ship was built and first sailed from—the Northern Ireland Titanic Foundation, and the National Museums of Northern Ireland. Along with Cameron, the bid has the backing of Robert Ballard, a former US Navy commander who located the wreckage site in 1985 and began leading diving expeditions two years later. The National Geographic Society has pledged $500,000 and launched a fundraising appeal.

Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet in Titanic. Photo © 1997, Paramount Pictures via IMDB.

During the society’s announcement in Belfast on Monday, Cameron appeared in a video message, saying: “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 filmmaker, a deep-sea explorer, and as an advocate of deep-ocean research,” according to the Guardian report.

Ballard, who was present for the announcement said that the bid is “the only viable option to retain the integrity of the Titanic collection. The collection deserves to be returned home to where it’s journey began.”

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