Canada’s Titanic – The Empress of Ireland: Discover the story of Canada’s greatest maritime disaster

Events & Entertainment • Posted by OttawaStart on May 30, 2014

 One hundred years after the sinking of the Empress of Ireland, the Canadian Museum of History presents a dramatic exhibition that takes visitors to the heart of the greatest maritime disaster in Canada’s history. Artifacts from this once-splendid ocean liner, historical documents and witness accounts help bring to life stories of loss and rescue, despair and bravery.


Considered one of the finest ships in the Canadian Pacific Railway fleet, the Empress of Irelandcarried tens of thousands of passengers between Canada and Great Britain in the early years of the 20th century. But in the early morning of May 29, 1914, on the fog-bound St. Lawrence River, theEmpress was hit broadside by a coal ship, the Storstad. The ocean liner went down in less than 15 minutes. More than a thousand people lost their lives.


Two years in the making, Canada’s Titanic – The Empress of Ireland exhibition displays important artifacts acquired by the Museum in 2012 from private collector and diver Philippe Beaudry. The salvaged items include the Empress of Ireland’s fog bell, whose clear tone could serve as a navigation signal in the dense fog; several portholes, including a rare Utley model; and equipment used in the wheelhouse that fateful morning.


“In 1914, Canada was a young but growing country of 8 million people. The loss of more than a thousand lives at a single stroke was truly a national tragedy,” said Mark O’Neill, President and CEO of the Canadian Museum of History. “The Empress of Ireland is a Canadian story involving a Canadian ship in Canadian waters. This exhibition allows visitors to explore the human side of the greatest maritime disaster in Canadian history. As Canada’s Museum of History, it is our role to share the stories of the people who were part of such a catastrophic event in our history.”


“This major exhibition features a collection of documents and artifacts that is of outstanding significance and national importance,” said the Honourable Shelly Glover, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages. “The Empress of Ireland represents the story of more than 100,000 immigrants and their descendants as they began their lives in Canada. As we approach the 150th anniversary of Confederation in 2017, we want to provide Canadians with more opportunities to learn about and experience their history. Congratulations to the Canadian Museum of History for developing this unique exhibition in partnership with the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 in Halifax.”


“I am proud to see so many years of hard work and perseverance come to fruition in the form of this major exhibition”, said Mr. Beaudry. “I am also very happy to be able to contribute to preserving and sharing this important, but largely forgotten, chapter in our history”.


Canada’s Titanic – The Empress of Ireland will be presented at the Canadian Museum of History from May 29, 2014 to April 6, 2015. The Museum of History developed the exhibition in partnership with the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21, where an adapted version of the exhibition will be presented in 2015.


Located on the shores of the Ottawa River in Gatineau, Quebec, the Canadian Museum of History is Canada’s largest and most popular cultural institution, attracting over 1.2 million visitors each year. The Museum’s principal role is to enhance Canadians’ knowledge, understanding and appreciation of the events, experiences, people and objects that have shaped Canada’s history and identity, as well as to enhance Canadians’ awareness of world history and culture.

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