Piece of ill-fated ship, is there more out there?
Nova Scotia Museum technician John Tate has questions. Do you have answers?
The subject of his questions is a treasured piece of marine and cultural history, and a larger part of a story the public knows very well – Titanic. The artifact is a part of the ship, likely salvaged wreck wood, that had been cut from a larger piece for the cross-cut saw marks are evident. Wreck wood was often salvaged and cut into pieces, then given to crew members as souvenirs. Upon close inspection, the wooden pieces appear to be a section of a curved stair well, with holes drilled to receive balusters, or ‘spindles’. I want to know more…Are there other pieces out there? Who knows exactly, what part of the ship it’s from?”
John’s interest in Titanic, and his story with the artifact, goes back many years. As a teenager, John found a hobby in building models. Many of these were ship models, due in part to an influence and education by John’s grandfather. He owned a Mahone Bay shipyard, building wooden ships. At fifteen years old, John created a model of Titanic from pictures and drawings – no formalized plans were available. This model was featured on local television and caught the attention of many viewers, including one who had a piece of the ship. “Her father was a crew member on CGS Montmagny” [a ship from Halifax sent to search for victims of the sinking]. The woman felt that John would appreciate the piece and he accepted.
When John later joined the Nova Scotia Museum, he felt that he had found a home for his artifact – the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, which chronicles the Halifax chapter of Titanic’s story. Using his technician skills, John was also able to create a turntable display for the artifact to ensure all of the piece, and its interesting history, is visible. John describes how the gentleman who originally found the wood possibly carved the name Titanic into the piece. John also observes how the wood has an interesting twist to it - a compound curve carved into the wood. This may be part of a stairwell rail cap or a section of a larger piece of molding.
This particular piece of Titanic has now been on display for ten years, and there are still more questions than John, or the Museum, have answers. What other pieces are out there? And just what part of the famous ship might this particular piece have come from? Who else can add to the story this artifact tells? 105 years after the fateful sinking of Titanic, John still hopes to find answers and continue the story of this piece in the greater Titanic narrative.