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The Royal Museums Greenwich, National Museums Northern Ireland, Titanic Belfast and Titanic Foundation hope to buy the entirety of the Titanic Artefacts Collection and bring them home to the UK and Ireland.

Premier Exhibitions, the US firm that owned the rights to salvage items from the Titanic wreck, filed for Chapter 11 in a US Bankruptcy Court in 2017.

Kevin Fewster, director of the National Maritime Museum, which would be joint custodian of the collection, said: “In early 2017, when I heard the news of the current owner’s bankruptcy, I felt it was our duty to try to save the collection as a whole… Alongside our partners, we will ensure that the collection is protected and preserved for generations to come.”

Cameron, director of the Academy Award-winning 1997 movie Titanic, said: “Securing the irreplaceable collection of artefacts—protecting and preserving them for future generations by placing them in the public trust—is a unique and important opportunity to honour the 1503 passengers and crew who died.” 

The project also has the backing of The National Geographic Society and Dr Robert Ballard, the oceanographer who discovered the RMS Titanic wreck.

Premier Exhibitions planned to sell the artefacts to pay off its creditors. However, the process is complex because of the law governing the objects. Remains from the 1912 shipwreck were brought up from the deep in several expeditions in 1987, in the early 1990s and early 2000s. The first artefacts found in the 1987 search – around 2000 objects – are subject to bankruptcy court proceedings in Florida. The other artefacts are controlled under another US court order.

Premier Exhibitions subsidiary RMS Titanic Inc has been the only company that can legally sanction a diving mission to the wreck of the vessel.