The Titanic Connection...continued

2000 May 2

Local Museum Buys Cabinet from Titanic
Very, very, rare

Treasure used for years as family medicine chest

The world's largest collection of wooden Titanic artifacts just got a little larger. A solid mahogany cabinet from the Titanic has been bought for $80,000 by the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in downtown Halifax. “You can well imagine how excited the museum is to acquire such a fine piece,” said Gerry Lunn, curator of visitor services, yesterday. “We're excited because having this item complements the other fine pieces we have that come from Maritime families.”

Cabinet from Titanic
Image used with permission, courtesy of Maritime Musium of the Atlantic Halifax, Artifact No. M2000.7.1

The small cabinet, about thirty centimetres tall and sixty centimetres wide, is the only intact piece of cabinetry known to have survived the vessel's sinking in 1912. “There's nothing else like it in the whole world,” said Dan Conlin, curator of marine history. “Finding an intact piece is very, very, rare.”

Mr. Conlin described the artifact as having classic cornices on top and bottom. The two doors have metal grille fronts, and an aged metal handle and latch. The only comparable piece is a drawer from a dressing table on display at Mariner's Museum in Virginia, he said.

The notation “First class baths, bridge dk. 401” is written in pencil across the back of the cabinet. This means it was in one of the first-class rooms on the bridge deck of the Titanic, which was hull number 401 in the shipyard during construction. Given the way the ship sank —it broke in half — museum staff have been able to narrow the exact location of the chest down to 19 cabins. More sleuthing by museum staff also uncovered the fact the cabinet was made by James Cobain, a carpenter in Belfast where Titanic was built.

Kept by Minia crewmember

The cabinet was recovered from the North Atlantic by crew from the cable ship Minia and was kept by Theodore Smith, one of the crew. His family made the cabinet their medicine chest, vividly illustrating how a Nova Scotian family integrated a piece of Titanic into their everyday lives, said Lunn. The museum acquired the artifact for $80,000 from descendants of Theodore Smith who wish to remain anonymous, said Lunn. The money came jointly from the Nova Scotia Museum Endowment Fund and the Canadian Cultural Property Export Review Board.

The museum plans to unveil it at an illustrated talk by Dan Conlin, curator of marine history, on Tuesday, May 16th. Conlin will speak on how museum sleuths were able to verify the piece is from Titanic, which sank in the early morning of 15 April 1912, with the loss of 1,503 lives.

Halifax Daily News, 2 May 2000
Halifax Chronicle-Herald, 3 May 2000
National Post, 26 June 2000

Text of the museum exhibit

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