“Are you ready to go back to Titanic?”
It’s a famous quote from James Cameron’s “Titanic,” but what if you really could go to Titanic? Or at least see some artifacts from the wreck site?
In partnership with RMS Titanic, Inc., the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn now offers the Titanic experience.
The largest touring exhibition, Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition gives its viewers just what they want: a chance to look at pieces of the shipwreck. Two hundred-fifty of the 300 artifacts have never been displayed in Michigan.
Titanic sank 100 years ago on the morning of April 15, 1912 after a collision with an iceberg in the North Atlantic Ocean. Of her 2,228 passengers, only 705 would survive through the night. Over half the passengers were left to perish in below-freezing water.
The exhibition is on timed 15-minute intervals. Once inside the exhibition, you can spend as much time as you need. However, if you leave, then you will not be able to enter again.
To “board,” visitors are given a replica boarding pass with a real name of a passenger or crew member. Only at the end of the tour do they discover what happened to their person.
Artifacts, many of which were taken from the sea floor during the 27 years since the discovery of the wreck, are inside glass boxes and are sorted accordingly as visitors travel back in time to 1912 and rediscover Titanic. First, visitors are taken through the creation of ship, and are transported into the lives of her passengers. Toward the end, visitors can see just how artifacts are taken from 2.5 miles below the surface of the ocean.
When walking through the exhibition, it does not really hit that these items are from somewhere most people have never gone. Some are a bit more damaged than others, but others are in almost perfect condition.
Bottles taken from the bottom of the ocean still have their original corks intact, with the original champagne still filling the bottoms. Perfume bottles found in a satchel still have their original scent when opened by curators after being on the ocean floor for more than 75 years. That feeling of humanism is there throughout the exhibition.
One of the most compelling moments was at the end. In the center of the final room is a display case with a suit, satchel and shoes belonging to a third-class passenger. The items were found inside his suitcase, unprotected against seawater, yet in practically perfect condition.
To be honest, I didn’t read the name of the man who these items once belonged to because the display moved me to the point where I couldn’t look at it. It suddenly made all those artifacts real and brought back the reason I had gone to see them.
My only complaint involves the organization of allowing visitors into the exhibition. It quickly became crowded as they let more and more people in, which made the whole place get very hot and caused people to occasionally start shoving each other. However, it probably will not get that crowded again as it was the 100th anniversary when I went.
Cameras and cell phones need to be turned off as both can damage the sensitive artifacts. Any blinding light can actually ruin or damage an item. However, some photo opportunities are present, one being a replica of the Grand Staircase. Professional photos are available for purchase.
Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition will last until September 2012. Tickets can be purchased on site, over the phone, and through the Henry Ford Museum website.