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At the heart of our exhibit, Empress of Ireland: Canada’s Titanic, is this magnificent ship’s bell. This was the bell that stood at the base of the foremast of the Empress of Ireland, on loan to us from the Canadian Museum of History. And it’s one of the most beautiful ship’s bells I’ve seen in my career as a curator: that lovely filigree patterning on the bronze, the arched lettering "Empress of Ireland." It’s a magnificent bell—weighs nearly 600 pounds. It’s also, for its beauty, a very sombre, bronze, dark piece of nautical artwork.

So I painted a mural of Quebec City. As the ship was leaving, the Empress of Ireland was getting ready to sail away. This might have been the last sight that people were seeing. So it’s a recognizable silhouette of Quebec City, with the hills going up and then you see the fortress, the Château Frontenac. It’s an historic silhouette.

We’re now preparing to put artifacts in a case from the wheelhouse of Empress of Ireland. The wheelhouse was the nerve centre of the ship. It’s where the captain and officers on duty control everything that happened on the ship: they could communicate into the engine room with voice tubes and telephones, and the ship’s telegraph, and they decided where the ship was going to go.