Why do American's Appreciate Titanic More


Jamie Bryant

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Aug 30, 2003
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Hi All,

There is one question that has forever intrigued me, and that is, why is Titanic more popular in the USA than in the UK? (country of origin)
Most of the moderators on this very board are American, the Americans care and appreciate the wreck more than the Brits do (all major preservation societies are American) hell the French are more involved with her than we are!
It's just worrying that such a proud and 'maritime rich' nation disregard the world's most famous and glamorous ship in such a way. What are your views on this matter?

JB
 
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David Haisman

Guest
hello Jamie,

I agree with your observations and of course here in the UK, past achievements , disasters etc. are usually passed off without too much ''grandstanding.''
I suppose it's just the way we are.
Regarding Titanic, I've always felt that as a great maritime nation being ''unlucky'' out-weighed the negligence angle although we were guilty of that as well.
Negligence will raise it's ugly head from time to time and usually hover on the periphery of cut throat business practices and enterprises if they think they can get away with it.
It still goes on today and others on that lucrative North Atlantic trade of yesteryear, got away with it without suffering Titanic's fate.

I have just had sections of my letter published in Southampton's Evening Echo this evening where I outline many ideas to promote the memory of Titanic and of course the anniversary in 2012.
There is just so much more we could do here in Southampton, being a port of the world's greatest liners and lets hope something may come of it.

David H
 

Inger Sheil

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David, would you really say that Britain neglects Titanic history, or that it's more popular in America? I know the British traditionally underplay aspects of their history, but when I lived in the UK I didn't find the sort of attitude that Jamie describes.

America has a considerably larger population than the UK (c. 293,027,500 vs 59,778,000), which would explain simply on a statistical basis why there are so many American members on this board. Their population is five times greater than that of Britain. However, it should be remembered that ET was established and is owned by a Brit - Phil Hind. There is also a very strong and active British presence on the board (of which I can also count myself one - I hold British passport and was born in the UK).

The British Titanic Society is tremendously active and innovative - its yearly convention is attended by members who travel from all over the world, and the British auctions held by Aldridge and Son are second to none. Its publication, the Atlantic Daily Bulletin, is superb. There are also a great many contributions to the study of the White Star Line vessels by British authors - David H is one, Dave Bryceson is another, and our own Mark Chirnside. All have recently published or have works in the pipeline. Brian Ticehurst, Geoff Whitfield, Jemma Hyder, Ben Holme...the list of highly regarded British researchers goes on!

The British Public Records Office (PRO) actively encourages use of its resources for investigation into Titanic related matters (they've even used Jack Phillips' image on the cover of some of their pamplettes about the archive).
quote:

Most of the moderators on this very board are American, the Americans care and appreciate the wreck more than the Brits do (all major preservation societies are American) hell the French are more involved with her than we are!
This is actually untrue. Phil (who is also the creater, owner and administrator), Monica and I are British. Christine is German, Jason is from Canada, Fiona is an Aussie (as am I - again), and Mark, Shelley, Michael and Erik are American. I'm not sure what you mean by 'major preservation societies', but if you mean Titanic related societies, that is a great slur on the British Titanic Society, the Ulster Titanic Society, and the Irish, German and other worldwide Titanic societies.

In short, I disagree very strongly that Britain is neglecting the Titanic.​
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>the Americans care and appreciate the wreck more than the Brits do (all major preservation societies are American)<<

I don't know about that. Seems the British have quite a thing for historical preservation if some of their maritime and other museums are any indication. I'd love to go through all of them if I ever get the chance. The problem is that Great Britain is so steeped in history that one has to wonder where one would start and where the line should be drawn.
 

Jason D. Tiller

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I disagree totally with this as well. To say that Britain doesn't appreciate the Titanic as much as the States does, is making a serious claim. Britain takes great care in their maritime history, just visit their many museums as Michael has pointed out.

As Inger said, Titanic societies are all over the world, there's one here in Canada, there's one in Sweden and there's even one in South Africa. So that counts for something which is, that Titanic is popular all over the world, not just in the U.S.
 
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Cornelius Thiessen

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Jason, does this Canadian Titanic Society have a website? Mailing address? I'd really be interested in finding out more.TYVM
 

Aidan Bowe

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Aug 11, 2004
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Does it really matter what nation has the most interest and input? We are all members of the same race just hemmed in by borders and geography...Hell that was a bit deep wasn't it! But you get my drift...
 
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David Haisman

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Hi, for those interested in Titanic's popularity or lack of it.

''Do you think Britain neglects Titanic History and it's more popular than in America''

Probably, by the feed back I get in some of my posts but it is debateable I suppose and I can see where Jamie is coming from. He wouldn't have mentioned it if it wasn't obvious to him and of course it all depends on what agenda one pursues in the interests of Titanic.
The letter sent to Southampton's Evening Echo may have been inadvertently misconstrued but was targeted at Southampton city and it's port.
The main theme included the erecting of a huge monument depicting Southampton's past history in general including it's virtual destruction in World War 2, it's great maritime history and a museum specifically built for this purpose incorporating the present (half hearted)maritime museum.
When one considers Captain's Smith's house being turned into a block of flats years ago and the seamens ''small'' memorial ''hidden''on Southampton Common for years, it's time to try and safeguard what's left.
The seamens memorial was only moved after it became an embarrasment and moved to Holy Rood Church years later. It's still not in general view to the passing public unless you look for it but it's an improvement.
We could certainly do more in this city of ours and with Titanic Societies, web sites etc. world wide forever trying to re-invent the story of Titanic, it's as well that we project, protect and hold on to what we've got. !
One needs to be born and bred here to note the many changes that have taken place and of which are eroding our precious past.

David H
 

Jamie Bryant

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I was simply comparing us with America, in no way was i ignoring international societies,the Titanic disaster has affected everyone and in no way was I discounting other countrie's involvement (I'm worried about my own yard!)
Also I said that Britain tends to forget about Titanic, not history in general, everywhere you go there's a reference to the past in some shape or form, but when it comes down to Titanic, we're just not as involved as I'd like us to be. Sure we have our own societies, but the media (through documentaries) seems to favour our American counterparts, and by 'major' I mean media exposure. I'll admit I did not know Phill Hind was British, that is actually quite comforting to know, but like David said, societies over here should be doing more. An example being the gradual 'fading away' of the slipways that she and her sisters were constructed on.
 
May 12, 2005
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Everyone has spoken well to the points that needed addressing. I am curious, though, how this idea got started that England isn’t as concerned about Titanic as America. I never knew there was such a perception.

Beyond the population dynamic, I can’t see that there’s a cultural difference between British and American regard for or treatment of the ship. Obviously Ireland and England have a national interest in Titanic and, as has been mentioned here, local governments might be more active in embracing the subject, but what has America done really that would make anyone think the people here care more about it?

All I can think of is, since Hollywood has played a part in the reemergence of Titanic in public consciousness, people have assumed it means Americans are more attracted to the story. If so, this would be a short-sighted observation as Hollywood is an international movie mecca, its films being created by all nationalities and reaching all countries. The big studios obviously gear its biggest budget films to American audiences because they’re, statistically, the largest. But the whole world sees the films and to a great extent — like it or not — is influenced by Hollywood.

But apart from its contribution through filmmaking, I can’t see that America has done anything "official" to top Britain’s interest in Titanic.
 
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Richard Coplen

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Hey all,
this subject kinda bothers me. I strongly disagree with this argument. To be honest we in Britain and Ireland have a greater reason to have an interest in Titanic - she was created over here and apart from "The Big Piece" she never even seen America's shores. The majority of her passengers and crew were British, not American. Titanic embodies Britishness and up until James Cameron's film was generally a British phenomenon. As with many blockbuster films Americans somehow managed to make her theirs and it seems Titanic has been re-born as an American vessel. Between population statistics and American over-enthusiasm regarding Hollywood, we on this side of the pond have been overshadowed in our interest in the subject. To be honest since the film anything Titanic has become an American trademark like Coca-Cloa or McDonalds. It was a disaster for heaven's sake. It would be like carrying key-rings around with pictures of TWA 800 on the front. Some things just aren't done. To be honest Titanic was generally handled tastefully and respectfully up until Titanic exploded on the Hollywood scene - a universally recognised All-American institution. If anything maybe the British and Irish way of handling the disaster (in our generally understated way) has been more respectful. You can shoot me down if you like, but you have to admit guys...Now don't get me wrong, I've nothing against Americans in the slightest. Just think they get a tad carried away. Sorry guys, but it needs to be said.
Regards,
Rich.
 

Jamie Bryant

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Maybe 'popular' was the wrong word, but the motives that triggered this thread were:

1) The amount of Titanic Museums and exhibitions you here about being based somewhere in the USA as opposed to over here, maybe to do with population differences, but I keep my eye out for forthcoming exhibits and it's just frustrating when you find out that most are abroad, and 6/10 it will be in America, the next one being in Philadelphia.

2)A significant amount of documentaries on the Titanic are made by American networks with American commentators and pundits, and the one recent British one was about the 'switch' theory and in comparison was rather disappointing.

These observations made me think about how these two countries perceive the great ship. I'm certainly not representing the 'British view', but it is annoying that when Titanic is mentioned over here it's usually at it's expense. However in Florida they have an exact replica of the Grand Staircase, celebrating Titanic and the pure elegance and craftmanship that went into her. This is what I mean by 'appreciate'. It's encouraging to know that a Southampton resident has similar thoughts.

JB
 

Jamie Bryant

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sorry Richard I only just noticed you're post, that's kind of what I mean, except I wasn't as blunt. You are right, the number of Titanic enthusiasts multiplied after the Cameron release, and yes it does feel like Uncle Sam is muscling in a bit too much, but the final straw was learning that the French are stripping the forecastle deck and even took the bell, aswell as the sheer nerve of Ballard considering applying for ownership of the wreck. Although we shouldn't forget that the dollar, not the pound, paid for her.
 

Lee Gilliland

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I think some of the American interest in the ship may well be traced to two causes; a) A Night To Remember, which was written and published over here, although the film was certainly better received in England than in America, and b) Ballard's discovery of the wreck, which was a join French-American expedition, to be sure, but it was the Americans who actually found the thing. A certain amount of interest was generated from the national pride, if you will.
 

Jamie Bryant

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Something which Britain has been lacking in recent years, regarding Titanic that is. (I don't want a gang of veterans on my back!)
 
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Richard Coplen

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Cameron's "Titanic" certainly generated far far far more interest in Titanic than either of "A Night to Remember" and Ballard's discovery. Although the former was no doubt a noble effort to keep Titanic's memory alive and was well-researched, the latter as well-intended as it had been has only resulted in a grave-site been desecrated and I would certainly not be proud if my nation had done that. O.K, o.k, it's one thing building museums to house the recovered items to keep Titanic's memory alive, but it's quite another to have left the wreck in the state it is today. A certain amount of respect should have been given. I mean could you imagine a group of British treasure-hunters going over to Pearl Harbor and ripping the USS Arizona apart in search for historical treasures?! In all fairness there's be war! I can't imagine how these cases are any different only Titanic unlike Arizona lies in international waters. Surely you can see my point. What makes Titanic and Arizona any different?
 

Inger Sheil

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quote:

I was simply comparing us with America, in no way was i ignoring international societies,the Titanic disaster has affected everyone and in no way was I discounting other countrie's involvement (I'm worried about my own yard!)
Jamie, I'm afraid that's not the sense that was conveyed by your comment that 'all major preservation societies are American'. That comment is dismissive not only of the British Titanic Society, but also the other major international societies.
quote:

Sure we have our own societies, but the media (through documentaries) seems to favour our American counterparts, and by 'major' I mean media exposure.
The THS and TIS feature in many documentaries because these documentaries are American made and funded. Note that America is a considerably larger and wealthier nation than Britain. However, I disagree that Britain goes unrepresented in the media (and, as someone involved professionally in maritime history, I disagree strongly that the media is the only - or even the best - way of gauging national interest). The British media is very open and receptive to Titanic based local stories - in the time I lived in the UK, I was interviewed twice by BBC radio and had front page feature stories run in the Western Courier Mail and the Yorkshire Post, as well as a few shorter interviews in other publications. My research has been mentioned in both British and international newspapers. One documentary I assisted with - the story of Harold Lowe - was an entirely British/Welsh production. And I'm just one researcher - look at the interviews done with other British researchers such as Brian Ticehurst, who has appeared in many docos. I believe members of your family, David H, have also appeared in documentaries?

As for museums - the THS is busy establishing a new home for its collection, which is tremendous (and more power to them). There is also the Orlando exhibition, and some major travelling exhibition that have recieved a tremendous reception when they have journeyed overseas, including places like Britain. TI's exhibition in the UK was a huge success in places like London. However, there are also locally put together exhibitions that have also received tremendous local support - when I worked on the Hull exhibition, with its initial focus on Joseph Boxhall, the exhibition was scheduled only to run for one brief summer period. However, it proved to be so much more popular than expected that it was brought back the following year.

In terms of permanent exhibitions, these are housed in places such as Liverpool, Southampton, Ulster and Greenwich. The Merseyside and Greenwich museums are major, internationally respected collecting institutions, and their work in preserving the history of the Titanic is well respected within the community of worldwide maritime museums. As I pointed out, the tremendously significant collection of Titanic documents in the PRO (National Archives) is a majorly promoted part of their collection.

I think the dismissive attitude you express towards the work of the BTS is very unfortunate indeed. This is certainly one of the major socieities, and it puts out a tremendous effort into researching and preserving the history of the wreck. The work done by its members internationally is tremendously respected.

When I chose to relocate overseas to pursue my research in more depth, I chose the UK. I found there an active and innovative group of British based researchers. Many of us met regularly in London, either socially or to conduct research together in some of the national archives. I have also travelled to the US to work with material and researchers there, and have not felt that the grassroots enthusiasm and love of the subject is less in either nation.

No one can deny the American contribution to the Titanic story and its exploration. However, to be dismissive of the British contribution by comparison, is unfortunate and - I believe - innacurate. Walter Lord, for example, drew on many British sources when he wrote ANTR, and the movie was produced and filmed in Britain by a predominantly British crew and British actors.

Financial considerations should not be confused with a lack of love, or consideration, of maritime history. I work every day with maritime enthusiasts here and overseas, and I know the pain and frustration of trying to find funds to preserve maritime artifacts and historic ships. Every nation deals with it, including wealthier ones such as the USA. It is always a balancing act. Historic locations are, unfortunately, often torn down when funds cannot be found to preserve them, and sometimes in the face of strong local opposition (the fate of the Lightoller house in Twickenham springs to mind). Again, this unfortunate state of affairs is not limited to Britain - it is universal.

David, I wish you every success with your efforts to inspire the people of Southampton in the lead up to the anniversary. I'm sure you will be a significant force in the planning for this event, as will the BTS and its officers.

As I said, Britain sometimes traditionally underplays some aspects of its history, but this is perhaps a cultural thing. And you don't have to look to far beneath the surface to find the pride, love and respect for their history that runs strong in the British race. They may not express it in the same terms as other nations, but it is profound.​
 

Jamie Bryant

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You're very good at 'twisting' what I say Inger.

I am a Titanic enthusiast, frustrated at my country AS A WHOLE, since when did I single out the individuals you mention, or the societies they represent. Since when did I say Britain dismisses the past and it's former glories.
You don't need to tell me how we behave, now you're guilty of a generalisation.

National pride over here has recently been slammed by the media. The lack of celebration on St George's Day, the growing unawareness of our great historical figures among the youth of this country, and the next generation, with most believing the likes of Nelson being a fictional character are just but a few examples.

The societies over here need vital support from the country AS A WHOLE as well as the media exposure i'm sure they crave, something which is easily generated over in America, probably being due to that small film that was made a few years ago, and before you say it, Hollywood is as international as the White House!

The British Societies, which I in no way discounted or 'bad mouthed', unfortunately do not receive that same exposure that they deserve, as you quite rightly pointed out. I may not have sounded like it on previous posts on this thread, but i'm actually on their side. Why would I criticise my own country, the only thing I was criticising was the lack of involvement this country has with Titanic AS A WHOLE, all 59 million of us, otherwise I would have said 'British Societies', but i didn't as I share those same frustrations, those of which prompted this thread.

The BBC have not broadcasted anything to do with the Titanic for years, the most coverage it receives anywhere over here is a small box at the back of the newspaper on April 15th. The only time it does get a mention is when ships are being compared: " 3 times the size of Titanic".

At the end of the day I was just sharing my observations, I certainly do not here much from our societies, and i've attended their exhibitions. I just wish they were more heavily featured in Titanic programmes along with other international societies, because i'm getting pretty tired of seeing mainly 'American only' programming. There should be more people like the ones who did that Britannic docu'.

This isn't the first time i've had to defend against those bullet quotes of yours, and i'm certain it wont be the last, but remember that you speak as someone who has had more involvement with these societies than most, but just try to see it from my point of view. I possess the same amount of passion and love (not knowledge just yet) of that ship, but the work of our societies just doesn't reach me as much as the ones across the pond do. Something which must be changed. It's time, as a nation, we took more responsibility for the wreck, I would be very grateful if you could give me their contact information.

JB
 
May 12, 2005
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Thank you, Inger, very much for your supportive words about BTS. I think that organization is absolutely the best there is because the people are the best. And you’re right that the Greenwich and Ulster museums are perhaps the highest regarded institutions of their kind anywhere.

I do think Jamie has a good point about the public’s lack of interest in (and knowledge of!) historical subjects in general. However, this is not only so of the youth of Britain. This state of things is very sad here in America where the names of even truly major figures in our history are not recognized by the younger generation.

This is an educational problem across the nationalities that must be addressed in elementary school and in the home. But if you haven’t a teacher who loves history, or a parent who does, who is there to instill love in children for the subject?

As to Inger "twisting words,’ I must say that seems unfair. However, if she did do, then so did I and several others, because the sense I got from Jamie’s post was that Britain was being singled out unfairly. It’s easy to make these mistakes when reading others’ words because one can never know the emotion behind them. I am happy to know that Jamie was not intending anything derogatory toward BTS in particular.

Hopefully in the near future we will see the fruits of a TV documentary that involved many members of BTS, including Ye Olde Geoff Whitfield himself. This was a French based film company’s project this past summer in which a number of researchers in the UK and America were involved. In fact, of all of us who were interviewed, I think only one or two were not members of BTS.

Long live BTS!

Best wishes to all,
Randy
 

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