The entire salvaged collection of over 5,000 artefacts from RMS Titanic are going up for auction in New York this April, just before the 100th anniversary of its sinking. Court rulings stipulate that all must be sold as a single lot, which is valued at an estimated $189 million.
There have been debates about whether recovering these artefacts was an act to preserve history (as iron-eating microbes slowly devour the wreckage), or an act of grave robbing.
A reason to insist that the artefacts are kept as a single entity is to prevent an incoherent disperson, with individuals bidding for a White Star line tea cup to put in their display cabinet.
Whichever individual or organisation wins this auction will have a tremendous responsibility for the preservation and mandated public display of the items.
Indeed, the current custodian, Premier Exhibitions (which oversees RMS Titanic Inc.), acknowledged the considerable expense of maintaining the collection.
To me, it is regrettable that this treasure is being sold off under such terms. That is, while it surely is worth its value, and no government agency or museum in Northern Ireland has this kind of money to invest, I would have liked to have seen some philanthropic beneficiary from the sale.
It would be fitting to have a substantive display of these artefacts in the place where the Titanic was built, here in Belfast.
Perhaps the winning buyer will consider this. (Time for me to ring up the Titanic Foundation.)
Some photos published by Reuters of some items in the auction lot: