Titanic: A Walk Through the Artifact Exhibition

By Hannah P.

I became interested in the story of the Titanic about 5 years ago when I first saw the James Cameron film on television. Of course I had heard about the Titanic tragedy before, but I had never given the subject much thought until I saw the Hollywood version of events. Hollywood’s tale might have been dramatized, but Titanic’s story intrigued me so much that I began to read everything that I could about it. One of these books was called “Ghosts of the Abyss” and was a companion to a 3D film (also made by James Cameron) about the Titanic after it sunk. The images of the ship that lay 2,000 miles below the ocean’s surface, rusting away in the inky blackness, were thrilling to see. But the artifacts that lay scattered across the ocean floor (a boot sitting upright, a suitcase, a piece of jewelry) were reminders that real people sailed on that maiden voyage, that real people died the night the Titanic sank. Because of my interest in the ship and its passengers, you can imagine my excitement when I heard that the Titanic Artifact Exhibition was coming to Colorado at the Denver Museum.

Standing in a very long line we were handed cards that contained the name of a real passenger of the Titanic. The information on the card told why that person was sailing on the Titanic, where they boarded, what class they stayed in, and whom they were traveling with. For the duration of our tour of the exhibit, we became those passengers, seeing what they would have seen and catching a glimpse of what their lives on the ship might have been like.

A large model of the Titanic was on display right outside the exhibit, our glimpse at the Titanic before 2 miles of icy water closed over it. Large posters hung on the walls filled with facts about the Titanic, information about the ship while it was being built and detailed information about the lives of a select few of its 2,223 passengers. It was like being in the scene of James Cameron’s Titanic film where the ship departs from the Southampton dock, when passengers filled the decks shouting goodbye to their friends and relatives. Then we rounded the corner and entered a dark series of rooms that housed the main attraction. Right away glass cases filled with artifacts greeted us. White Star Line embossed china, playing cards, suitcases, clothing items, ashtrays and containers of toiletries, things that the passengers and crew used during their fateful voyage. Pieces of the ship itself were also on display, the figurehead from the newel post at the base of the first class grand staircase, pieces of the ship’s motor mechanisms and one huge piece of the Titanic’s hull. In addition to all these historical treasures, some rooms from the Titanic were reconstructed: a hallway, a first class suite and the Palm Court Café. Walking through these rooms was amazing, like being transported back in time.

Near the end of the exhibit stood a haunting and rather menacing attraction: a very large block of ice. Surrounding the miniature iceberg were posters detailing the events of the night of the sinking. Further on stood a model of the sunken Titanic, models of search and recovery vehicles and a piece of the hull that people could touch. Touching a piece of the Titanic is an experience I will never forget.

At the end of the exhibit two lists of names covered the wall. At the top was the list of people who survived the disaster, at the bottom the list of those who perished. We pulled out our passenger cards and looked up the names on the two lists. The names on our cards were all on the list of those who survived. But the list of those who didn’t was so much longer.

I left the exhibition very glad to have been able to see such extraordinary pieces of history. It made something that happened long ago seem not like a Hollywood tale, but a true story of human courage and tragedy.

For more information and a different perspective, here is another great hub on this exhibition: http://hubpages.com/hub/Titanic-No-More-Survivors

(Formerly published in the Costume Chronicles - http://www.costumechronicles.com/ - )

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