The largest project I undertook during my traineeship was to curate a small area of the Museum as part of a Titanic Trail. To commemorate the centenary of the sinking of the Titanic a trail has been designed around The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery. There is an important local link to the disaster as Captain Smith was born in Well Street, Hanley. His father was a potter who became a grocer. Smith followed his older half-brother to sea and worked his way up the ranks to become a Captain. He had a full and successful naval career and was a popular choice of White Star Captain, yet he is best known for his role in this tragedy.

I was given the following area of the museum.



I started to research my display knowing that I was going to focus the Brick Area on Captain Smith. I wanted to show visitors how Smith had worked his way from the bottom up and had passed all the necessary exams to gain command of his own vessel. This area is the start of the trail so I began with an introduction panel before moving on to Captain Smith.

I created a timeline of Smith’s life and placed a modern copy of his birth certificate next to it to show the local link. I also wrote a panel about the reasons he was chosen to captain the Titanic.





In the same area I also put a picture of Smith near the Loving Cup that was presented to him after he passed his masters certificate of competency which enabled him to captain a ship.




This part of the trail was completed with a large display case into which I placed a model of the Titanic and various items of memorabilia from the museum collection, the local archives and on loan from Don Smith.


Captain Smith was a popular and genial host. He was known as the ‘Millionaires’ Captain’ because the rich and fabulous felt safe on any ship under his command. Why then should the Titanic have been any different? Was the sinking of the Titanic completely Smith’s fault? I wanted to use the second side of my display area to invite visitors to cast their own vote in our ballot box after reading evidence from the inquests of the time and discovered since from analysing the wreck.

Next to the ballot I placed a DVD created by Ray Johnson at the Staffordshire Film Archive. He put together three short films to compliment the display. The first is about the maiden voyage of the Titanic, the second is the story of Eva Hart who was rescued in lifeboat no. 14 with her mother, and the final film is original footage of Captain Smith on the deck of the Olympic in 1911.

The final element that I felt I needed in my part of the Titanic Trail was to try to put the tragedy into historical context. I therefore found replicas of some newspapers from immediately after the disaster and these were scanned, enlarged and laminated before being put on display. I put these next to the original design for the plaque dedicated to the memory of Commander Edward John Smith which is in the entrance to the Town Hall.