No one who experienced the sinking of Titanic could ever have guessed how the fate of the great ship, which struck an iceberg on April 14th and sank in the freezing waters of the North Atlantic on April 15th, 1912, would endure for over a century. Today, millions of people are still fascinated with Titanic, her crew, and the people who fought for their lives on that frigid evening. Titanic artifacts are still a hot commodity; however, some of them are in danger of being lost or separated forever, and this has sparked a bidding war between the Titanic movie director James Cameron, a struggling artifacts company, private bidders, and a group of museums that hope to keep the amazing collection together.
1. Premier Exhibitions: Struggling To Stay Afloat
In its heyday, Premier Exhibitions proudly sponsored a variety of popular exhibits that toured the country, and one of the most popular was its “Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition” show. This exhibit toured around America several times and in popular venues, such as Las Vegas. Some of the artifacts included a huge steel deck plate from the ship, dishes, menus, and items from those who survived and those who didn’t. The company eventually gained ownership of over 2,000 items; however, its exhibits gradually began to lose money. In 2017, Premier Exhibitions filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy, leaving the fate of the precious artifacts in doubt.
2. Red Tape and a Titanic-sized Debt
Titanic enthusiasts all over the world were shocked and dismayed to hear that once Premier Exhibitions had filed for bankruptcy, it’s plan was to sell their Titanic artifacts to individual private collectors to pay off their debt. This meant the amazing collection they had amassed would be separated forever, a thought that especially distressed UK and Ireland museum directors, as the ship had strong ties to both nations. As Premier angled to sell off its collection, these directors began working on plans of their own to salvage the collection and bring it home to where they believed it belonged.
Fortunately for those who did not want to see the Titanic artifact collection sold, governmental red tape delayed the sale for several reasons. First, Premier found that it could not sell any of the objects because they fell under the umbrella of the bankruptcy holdings and were no longer in its control. Second, several thousand artifacts that are part of that collection are tied up in other proceedings connected to the bankruptcy, which continue in a Florida court. The UK and Irish museum directors, knowing they were running out of time, looked for financial backing from a famous Hollywood director—and Titanic enthusiast—to help them secure their bid.
3. Enter 2 Titanic Heroes, James Cameron & Bob Ballard
The museum collation, knowing it was rapidly running out of time, kicked off a fundraising campaign to buy the artifact collection in its entirety. Other interested parties, such as Hong Kong investment firm PacBridge Capital Partners and the U.S. private equity firms Alta Fundamental Advisers and Apollo Global Management, all put up bids to buy the collection, including the massive piece of Titanic’s hull that had amazed viewers during the exhibit’s tour. Fortunately, the collation would soon receive backing from two famous sources: one was National Geographic and the other was James Cameron, director of the 1997 smash hit film Titanic. Together with Rob Ballard, the man who discovered the ship’s remains in 1985, are backing the fundraising efforts to ensure the collection remains together instead of the items being sold off individually. Ballard, in particular, believes the items should be returned to the UK and Ireland, where the ship was constructed, and rest there in museums for the world to enjoy. While the outcome of this bid war is still unclear, it is obvious that Cameron, Ballard, and the museum collation will continue their struggle to keep the collection together.
Titanic continues to hold sway over the world’s collective imagination. Even after all this time, over a century later, people flock all around the world to see these amazing rare artifacts that take viewers back to a lost time. No matter the fate of these artifacts, one fact is certain: the ship and the fate of her crew and passengers will not pass into memory anytime soon.