Cunardia: First Permanent Cunard Museum at Sea

Heart-felt anecdotes and historic artifacts related to Cunard Line’s three 20th century Queens are captured in Cunardia, the museum exhibit that is poised to become one of Queen Victoria’s most captivating features.  Scheduled to launch this December, Queen Victoria is the first Cunard ship to carry a fully curated exhibit of Cunard memorabilia, artifacts and vintage souvenirs including Queen Mary’s log book and her historic Zig Zag clock – the vital timekeeping device that prevented World War II U-Boat attacks against the famed liner.

Masterfully created by the Open Agency, the same team of researchers and designers responsible for several other popular Cunard exhibits and publications, Cunardia tells the story of Queen Mary (1936), Queen Elizabeth (1940) and Queen Elizabeth 2 (1969).  Through five engaging storylines, the exhibit explores:

•  Creating a Queen, showcasing the histories of the iconic ocean liners

•  A Queen’s Day, tracing a “typical day” at sea from the perspective of both passenger and crew member

•  Queens at War, featuring the role of the Queens as troop carriers during World War II and the Falklands War in 1982

•  Queens Do Not Race, an in-depth history of the Atlantic Blue Riband highlighted by a life-size replica of the famed Hales Trophy

•  Inspired by a Queen, detailing the Queens’ far-reaching impact on many aspects of creativity

Harnessing Cunard’s rich image archive and the latest audio-visual technology and contemporary display design, the exhibit immerses guests in the Line’s unparalleled history.

In addition, retired Commodore Ronald Warwick, former Master of Queen Mary 2 and QE2, will serve as Honorary Curator of the Cunard Queens exhibit.  Warwick, an avid Cunard historian, was a natural choice, not only due to his own place in the Cunard family, but also because his father, Captain William E. Warwick, captained Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth and QE2.  Interestingly, Commodore Warwick has traced the history of all Cunard captains and he and his father are the only father-and-son captains in the Line’s 168-year history.

“I am delighted to accept the invitation to become Cunardia’s first Honorary Curator, particularly as the exhibit focuses on Cunard’s Queens.  I look forward to sharing the illustrious history of these renowned ocean liners with Cunard enthusiasts sailing aboard Queen Victoria,” said Warwick.

“The excitement surrounding this exhibit is unprecedented,” says Carol Marlow, president of Cunard Line.  “Anecdotes, artifacts and memorabilia continue to pour in – a stirring testament to Cunard’s singular place in the hearts of maritime enthusiasts around the world.”  To tap this interest, the Open Agency conducted extensive research within Cunard’s own archives and issued public appeals to past guests, crew and renowned Cunard collectors in both the United States and Great Britain.  According to Martyn Routledge of the Open Agency, “the timing is ideal as most guests and crew of Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth are now in their 80’s or older and are extremely proud of their Cunard experience and eager to share their memories.”

Among the most significant pieces to be exhibited are:

•  A copy of the Hales Trophy awarded to the winner of the Atlantic Blue Riband. Although Queen Mary broke the speed record in 1936 and held it unchallenged from 1938-1952, Cunard Line refused to accept the award on the grounds that the Line still followed Samuel Cunard’s mandate to his captains in 1840 to put safety before speed at all times.

•  A zig-zag clock from Queen Mary during her wartime service.  The clock was kept on the Bridge to alert navigators as to when to change direction during the operation known as zig-zagging.  Regularly changing course was a tactic designed to confuse U-boats.  Hitler had put a price on the ship as a target and as a trophy of war.

Other exhibits include a section of Queen Mary’s deck rail carved with the initials of some GIs who contributed to her unbroken record of carrying the largest number of people on a ship; the first log book of Queen Mary (handwritten by Sir Edgar Britten, Captain during her maiden voyage); collections of never-before-published images illustrating the celebrity hey-day of Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth; detailed ship models and souvenirs; artifacts and stories related to the “Cunard Yanks,” the young crew who brought back the latest New York fashions in clothing and music to post-war Britain.

While focusing on Cunard’s 20th century history, Cunardia also gives a nod to the present with exhibit references to Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria, including the cork from the bottle of prosecco that was broken over Queen Victoria’s bow by Maureen Ryan as the ship met open water for the first time.  With its typical flair for tradition and ceremony, Cunard chose Ryan, the only known person to have served on four Queens, to serve as the ship’s godmother during Queen Victoria’s float-out celebration.  Similarly, in December, Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cornwall will perform the naming of the ship, joining a long line of royals who have launched a Cunard liner.

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