Merseyside Maritime Museum has reopened, giving visitors the first glimpse of a completely new gallery which celebrates Life on Board.
The overhaul of the Royal Albert Dock venue’s second floor gallery space was a week away from being unveiled when the Coronavirus lockdown was implemented in March.
Now Life on Board is welcoming its first visitors as the Maritime Museum becomes one of three National Museums Liverpool waterfront venues to reopen their doors to the public.
Britain is and island nation and 95% of goods enter the country by sea.
Life on Board celebrates Liverpool’s central role in international trade and travel, focussing on the Liverpool people who have spent – and continue to spend - their careers at sea.
The glamour of ocean liner travel is highlighted through displays of fine dining tableware, cocktail parties, shipping advertising, and a host of artefacts which belonged to Gertrude Walker who made transatlantic crossings over the course of 50 years from the Edwardian era to 1961.
Among other key exhibits on display are half-a-dozen finely etched art deco glass panels from Cunard’s Mauretania II and which graced the Cabin (first) Class Dining Room on voyages during the 1930s.
Each design was based on a constellation significant to the history of the first or second Mauretania.
A section of the new gallery is dedicated to Seawomen looking at the changing roles and fortunes of female seafarers from Victorian stewardesses to modern-day engineers, pilots, officers and captains.
An intricate model of the Arandora Star, which was damaged in the bombing of Liverpool Museum during the Second World War, has been carefully restored and is on show along with a number of other exhibits from National Museums Liverpool’s large collection of ships’ models.
Meanwhile the gallery also gives visitors a glance behind the scenes, along with telling stories of how life has been at sea for thousands of seafarers over the centuries and what it’s like today.
A ship’s wheel, binnacle and compass and telegraph bridge transmitter, ‘hardtack’ ships’ biscuits and medicine chests are among around 250 exhibits across the gallery.
And there is a a special section on the MV Derbyshire, an oil and ore ship belonging to Liverpool’s Bibby Line and which became the largest British ship ever lost at sea when she sank in a typhoon off Japan in September 1980 with the loss of her 42 crew and two of their wives.
Maritime Museum head Ian Murphy
Maritime Museum head Ian Murphy said: “This was the oldest existing gallery in the building, from around 1988. And while there were lots of good things about it, it was very technical, and the design felt dated – the turquoise signage looked reminiscent of a Smash Hits cover.
“We drew up a plan of what we wanted the gallery to look like and I’m really pleased with the way it looks. There’s nothing like it in the building; it’s very different to other areas in its design.
“Some of the exhibits here are absolutely key stories that we never want to lose – stories like the MV Derbyshire. Other people who are included in the gallery haven’t told their stories at all until now.”
Life on Board is on the second floor of the Merseyside Maritime Museum.
Free timed tickets should be pre-booked (visit the website HERE) and visitors are required to wear face masks in the museum. Hand sanitiser stations are set up around the site and visitors are encouraged to keep left inside the building and maintain social distancing in the exhibitions.
The Museum of Liverpool and the International Slavery Museum also reopen tomorrow. Hours are 10am to 5pm on Wednesdays to Sundays.