To celebrate my birthday, my family took me to Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition on display through April at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences. This exhibit, which combines artifacts recovered from the doomed ship, sounds and story boards, takes visitors on an unforgettable, interactive journey that brings history to life.
Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition Experience
Passenger Tickets are Distributed to Exhibit Guests
Each guest receives a “ticket” with the White Star Line logo and a brief description of an actual passenger on the ship.
Our son received the ticket of Mr. Thomas Andrews, Jr., the Titanic’s chief designer. He traveled the maiden voyage of each ship he designed. My daughter and I both received tickets from third class passengers. My husband sailed as Mr. Masabumi Hosono, the only Japanese passenger on board.
Throughout the exhibit, we discovered much about Mr. Andrews: his childhood, training, passion, family and his fate. Mr. Andrews stood stoically in the men’s smoking lounge as the ship sank. At the end of the exhibit, each visitor can check their name against a list of all who survived and died. We knew Mr. Andrews went down with the ship and we searched to learn the fate of the rest (two survived, one died).
The Titanic’s Origins
The first major display uses large photos, videos and artifacts to show visitors how the Titanic was built. I had no idea it was made in Belfast, Ireland (thus perfectly suited for inclusion in this week’s Ireland blog theme!). We also learned that the crew was selected only four days before sailing and that coal strikes played a major part in who was and was not on board that voyage.
First-Class Cabins on the Titanic
Passing through a doorway, exhibit guests are transported from the shipyards to the first class cabins. Displays of salvaged money, jewelry, dishware and fixtures combined with the stories of actual guests paint a vivid picture of what “first class” on the Titanic really meant. Tickets for first class passengers cost about $4,500 in 1912, or about $103,000 today. Amazingly, that ticket price didn’t include all amenities on the ship!
Second-Class Cabins on the Titanic
While not as opulent as first-class, the second-class amenities on board the Titanic far exceeded second-class amenities on other ships. One storyboard in the display reported that second-class passengers thought they’d mistakenly been seated in the first-class dining room.
Third Class Cabins on the Titanic
Passing through another doorway, guests walk along a dark hallway with pipes above and the sounds of the ship all around. A third-class cabin, small and tidy, is displayed to help us understand what third-class cabins felt like back then. Third-class accommodated about 700 guests with shared restrooms and two showers. Of course, at that time, people only bathed weekly, so that worked out okay. Most of these travelers did not survive.
The Titanic Sinks
After passing through another doorway, guests are transported to the engine rooms to “meet” the crew, understand the ship’s construction and experience the drama that unfolded throughout the night. I found it quite sad that the Titanic’s crew was aware of the icebergs all around.
The display in this area includes videos, the sounds of the night, several “boards” displaying conversations between captain, crew and other ships, and an ice wall. Stepping into the ice wall room helped me appreciate how very cold the water was, though the room’s temperature didn’t come close to the actual 28 degrees fahrenheit of the seawater that night.
Recovering the Titanic
The final room tells the rest of the story: the final moments as the Titanic broke apart and sank, the RMS Carpathia‘s rescue efforts, and the ongoing recovery efforts. Displays here include dishes that never broke, personal effects of many travelers, perfume bottles and so much more.
A Family Review of Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition
Our family gives this exhibition an enthusiastic four thumbs up. We were told it takes about an hour to tour the whole exhibit, but we didn’t rush and took about an hour and a half. The crowd might have been a slight factor, so try to go in the morning or on a weekday when it’s less crowded.
Ellie’s review (girl, second grade): I liked the movie at the end where they showed us how they got things out. The money was really cool. I wonder why it didn’t fall apart under water like it does in the washing machine. I liked the iceberg, too. It was really cold.
Ben’s review (boy, ninth grade): I liked how they put you in the exhibit. It was more interesting going through the exhibit as one of the people on the ship, even if I did die at the end.
Rob’s review (the husband): I liked hearing the stories of passengers not just the ship. It made the whole exhibit more interesting.
Karen’s review (that’s me): I believe this exhibit is so successful, for the elementary and up crowd, because the curators put the human element in it. Becoming part of the story with the passenger tickets drew us in from the beginning. The entire exhibit immerses guests in the sights, sounds and stories of the Titanic. This multi-sensory approach really makes this 100 year old story come alive.
Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition on Tour
The exhibition will remain at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences through April 28, 2013.
To learn where Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition is heading next, visit their Facebook page.
Special thanks to Jonathan Pishney and the NC Museum of Natural Sciences staff for this wonderful experience. The photos here are included courtesy of the museum — no personal photography is allowed in the exhibit. Thank you, too, for discounting our admission. As is always my policy, if I did not like this exhibit, I would have paid full price and refused to write a review. These opinions are my family’s and my own.
Come back tomorrow as we dive into Ireland! I’ll be sharing a great St. Patrick’s Day dinner recipe, photos from the Emerald Isle and perhaps a little leprechaun fun! Sign up for posts by email and get each one delivered into your inbox.
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