National Maritime Museum receives historic Titanic archive: the Lord-Macquitty Collection

Walter Lord, the American writer of the first major publication about the sinking of RMS Titanic, A Night to Remember, has left his historic collection of film-related material and personal items previously owned by Titanic survivors, to the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich. A selection of these objects will go on public display for the first time on 15 April 2003, the 91st anniversary of the sinking in 1912.

The collection includes scripts and film stills from A Night to Remember (1958) which starred Kenneth More and Honor Blackman, and was based on Lord’s book of the same name. Among the many personal items given to Lord by Titanic survivors are first and second-class dinner menus, original photographs of survivors approaching the rescue ship Carpathia in lifeboats, and telegram messages sent by survivors from Carpathia. One reads:

I am safe, pray that Harry has been picked up by another steamer, arriving Carpathia, Renee.

More than 1500 lives were lost when the 'unsinkable' liner struck an iceberg and sank on her maiden voyage in the early hours of 15 April 1912.

Lord was considered the greatest Titanic expert and his collection also includes much commemorative memorabilia donated over many decades by his friends and admirers. He is credited with having revived the memory of the ship, about which not a single book was published between 1913 and 1955. His interest stemmed from a journey on the Titanic’s sister ship, Olympic, when he was just nine years old. The collection also includes items previously owned by William Macquitty, producer of A Night to Remember and a close friend of Walter Lord, who encouraged Lord to bequeath his collection to the National Maritime Museum rather than remain in America.

One of the most intriguing items in the collection is a small toy musical pig, which belonged to fashion journalist and first-class passenger, Edith Russell. The 'lucky' pig had been given to her following her involvement in a car crash in France. Despite being in her early thirties, and later becoming possibly one of the first female war journalists (spending time in World War I trenches) she was too frightened to jump into a lifeboat. However, when the pig was thrown into Lifeboat 11, Edith was compelled to follow and both the pig and Edith survived. Edith, whose story is included in A Night to Remember, later advised William Macquitty on the film. She died in 1975, aged 98.

Roy Clare, Director of the National Maritime Museum said:

The sinking of the Titanic is among the most notorious maritime disasters the world has known in peacetime; ever since, people have been rightly cautious about vessels that claim to be 'unsinkable'. Thousands of families were caught up in the aftermath of the accident, each with intensely personal stories to tell. Our acquisition of this substantial archive gives us a powerful insight into these painfully human aspects of the Titanic tragedy. The collection illustrates the compelling stories of those who lost their lives on that terrifying night, and the poignancy of the tales of those who survived. We are delighted and very grateful that Walter Lord has left his extensive collection to the National Maritime Museum. The material enhances our existing Titanic holdings, builds on our world-class historic manuscript collection and enables us to plan ahead for a major exhibition.

When Lord’s first book, A Night to Remember, was published in 1955, it became a New York Times best-seller. In 1999, following the release of James Cameron's film, Titanic, A Night to Remember again entered the best-sellers list, over 40 years after it first appeared. Lord advised Cameron on Titanic and when it won the Academy Award for best picture, Cameron held up the Oscar and declared it 'a night to remember’ in honour of Walter Lord who died in May 2002 aged 84. Lord’s film is still considered by many to be the most historically accurate telling of the Titanic story.

Among other items to go on display, in the Museum’s 'Explorers' gallery, on 15 April are the embroidered silk evening slippers and white woollen cap that Edith Russell was wearing when she jumped into Lifeboat 11, the Marconi cable form notifying Edith’s safety and other items relating to the rescue of survivors and those lost in the disaster.

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Notes to editors

1. The National Maritime Museum, Queen's House and Royal Observatory are open from 10.00 to 17.00 (18.00 in summer), seven days a week. Last admission 30 minutes before closing. Admission is free. Nearest DLR station to the Museum is Cutty Sark for Maritime Greenwich and nearest rail station is Maze Hill. For visitor information telephone 020 8858 4422 or visit www.rmg.co.uk/visit

2. Walter Lord passed away on 19 May 2002, aged 84, following a long battle against Parkinson’s disease. He made the bequest to the Museum in his will. A Night to Remember is one of two books Lord wrote about the disaster, the second, The Night Lives On, was written following exploration on the wreck in 1986 by the salvage company RMS Titanic Inc.

3. The National Maritime Museum's 'Passengers' gallery tells the story of modern passenger travel on great ocean liners and mass immigration, from England to Australia, from Europe to America and the Caribbean to England during the last century.

4. The Museum currently has a small permanent display about the Titanic; this will give way to a more substantial exhibition, drawing on the new material, within the next few years.

5. The Museum’s collection of manuscripts is the largest and most important dedicated archive for the study of maritime history in the world. In addition the Museum is guardian of the country's finest collection of historic maritime photographs, with prints and negatives dating back to the beginnings of photography in the 1840s. Much of the newly acquired Lord-Macquitty Collection will be catalogued within these areas of the National Maritime Museum’s holdings.

6. James Cameron will follow up Titanic with the release of an IMAX documentary about the ship – Ghosts of the Abyss. The 3D film shows unique underwater footage of the wreck and is released on 18 April 2003. It is accompanied by a book of the same name, with an introduction by James Cameron, which includes around 200 images of the wreck as it is today. The book is available in the National Maritime Museum shop priced at £20.

7. Carlton International own the rights to the film A Night to Remember. The film is part of the Rank Film Library which is also owned by Carlton International. The film has recently received digital restoration prior to release on DVD.

Issued 7 April 2003 by the National Maritime Museum Press Office

For further press information and images please telephone: 020 8312 6732/6545/6790 or email: jward@rmg.co.uk