Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition

SC Staff Writer

Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition, an interactive exhibit of artifacts recovered from the ship’s ocean bottom resting place, is in its final weeks at The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia.

The exhibit is open to the public through April 7, and tickets are available through Ticketmaster.com for around $30.

The exhibit covers over 15,000 square feet and holds more than 300 artifacts recovered from the debris of the ship.  Guests are given a chronological tour from the building of the ship to its maiden voyage crash with an iceberg.  Visitors should allow 2-3 hours to make their way through the exhibit, longer during peak times.

After learning about the 1911 launch of the Titanic, and what it took to build such a luxurious and innovative ship, visitors are given a boarding pass to the ship that has the identity of an actual passenger.  Clutching this identity, visitors are able to imagine what life was like for the passengers during those few days in April of 1912.

One such identity is Dr. Alice Leader, a 49-year-old first class passenger from New York.

Alice was a childless widow who had retired from her pediatric medicine practice in 1908, and she was travelling on the Titanic to return home from a holiday in Europe.

The exhibit intermingles glass-enclosed artifacts with detailed recreations of passenger and crew rooms.

Guests are given the opportunity to have their pictures taken on the famous grand staircase, but otherwise photography is not allowed.

The beginning of the exhibit emphasizes the differences between the classes of the ship, including authentic dinnerware recovered from the debris field, and corresponding menus printed on the wall behind the displays.

A first-class ticket on board the Titanic would cost between $40,000 and $90,000 in today’s money.

The large price tag included many amenities, including a complimentary ceramic container of toothpaste provided by the White Star Line.

An authentic container is included among the exhibits, and a replication of this container is for sale in the gift shop.

After touring the ships artifacts, guests are taken down a dark hallway that emphasizes the impending doom of the ship.          While the beginning of the exhibit is in lit rooms, the second to last room is large, dark, and cold, used to emphasize what the passengers of the Titanic experienced.

In this room, guests are invited to touch a recreation of an iceberg that gives a sense of how cold the water was.

There is a 3-D video experience in this room that gives guests an opportunity to see the wreck as it currently is, as well as watch a digital recreation of the theory of how the ship sank.

A scale recreation of the titanic as it rests now, including the debris field is displayed behind the 3-D viewing area.

The final exhibit of this room is a recovered piece of the ship that guests are able to reach in and touch.

This piece, and the various recovered artifacts, will soon be all that remains of the ship. A rust-eating bacterium is expected to fully disintegrate what remains of the bottom of the ocean wreck within the next fifteen to twenty years.

One wall of the final exhibition room is dedicated to an alphabetical list of the survivors and the deceased, categorized by class, which gives visitors the opportunity to discover if the identity that they had been given had made it through the tragedy.

Dr. Alice Leader did survive, escaping the sinking ship on lifeboat 8.  She returned to New York on April 18, 1912 on the Carpathia.

On April 15, 1912, 705 passengers survived the disaster, while 1523 were lost.  Millvina Dean, the youngest survivor at only 9 weeks old, was the last survivor to die of natural causes in 2009.  The exhibit is now dedicated to her.

The sinking of the Titanic has long been a romanticized story that checks the confidence of man.  Though deemed unsinkable, the crash created the most devastating loss of life in the modern century.

Titanic has been the inspiration for fiction and non-fiction film and literature for more than 100 years, including the film Saved from the Titanic, that was released only 29 days after the sinking, in which Dorothy Gibson, a Titanic survivor, starred.

For more information, visit www.rms.titanic.net or www.fi.edu/titanicc/.

E-mail Victoria at: