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Inaugurated only a few years ago, the SeaCity Museum is already the most popular attraction in Southampton. This new interactive museum is housed in a monumental building dating from 1939 that used to serve as a court and prison. The largest attraction is the comprehensive exhibit about the Titanic, which began its fatal voyage from this South English harbour town in 1912.
In 2012, the Maritime Museum of Southampton was inaugurated in the Cultural Quarter, an up and coming neighbourhood on the northern side of the city that is home to other museums, restaurants and the BBC studios. SeaCity Museum found its new home in the former Magistrate’s Court, a huge building with striking architecture, built with large white blocks of concrete. The former court rooms and prison cells now display 2 permanent museum collections and a temporary collection.
More than one famous ship has moored in Southampton. It was not only the Titanic that began its Atlantic crossing here. The Mayflower also set sail with the Pilgrim Fathers from this harbour. During the Second World War, Southampton was the most important landing site for American troops participating in D-Day. ‘Gateway to the World’, one of the 2 permanent exhibits of the SeaCity Museum, is dedicated to the people and ships who over the course of centuries have passed through Southampton. The exhibit includes paintings, video projections and beautiful ship models, such as a 7-metre-long replica of the passenger ship RMS Queen Mary from 1936.
An even larger part of the SeaCity Museum is dedicated to the first and last voyage of the Titanic, a devastating drama, especially for Southampton. More than three quarters of the 900 member crew hailed from this city or the surrounding area. The exhibit presents the disaster mostly from the perspective of the crew and the residents of Southampton. Visitors can view the original furniture, utensils and information on the enormous quantities of luxury goods (kilos of tobacco, playing cards, champagne) that were on board the cruise ship. Sound effects, replicas of the engine rooms and a cabin give a realistic impression of life on board the ship. Even better: an interactive installation allows you to take the helm of the Titanic. Intriguing detail: from the skylights in some of the rooms you can see the high bell tower of the museum building, which has almost the same proportion as the smoke stacks of the Titanic.
There are plenty of places to grab a bite near SeaCity: the museum has its own café and the surrounding area boasts several restaurants. After lunch, you can also visit the museum next door, the Southampton City Art Gallery. Admission is free, but the collection is priceless. The museum showcases more than 3,000 works by European artists (Jacob Epstein, Auguste Rodin, Edgar Degas, Camden Town Group) and also hosts temporary exhibits.