The Titanic Artifact Exhibition landed up being quite an emotional experience. Who knew that artifacts and stories would give me such a reaction? The way they laid things out, it really felt like you were part of the journey. I would highly recommend this exhibition – not just for the historians but also for anyone with a desire to hear an amazing story.
The evening of the gala opening of the exhibit started cheerfully enough though. There was a lovely string orchestra playing away and people really made an effort to dress up. I also met up with Belinda and we posed for a photo with the ship. (If you are there as a couple you can get more romantic one like Leo and Kate on the bow of the ship).
The exhibition starts with how the actual boat was made. It took three years and 15 000 people to make. After its launch they still had to add the engines, boilers and anchors as well as all the interiors. Look at how massive these propellers are! She was a triple screw vessel.
We are then shown the beauty of the artifacts and the rooms. Some were amazingly preserved. All of the artifacts are kept under glass at certain temperatures. You are not allowed to take pictures. (Pictures in this post are from a scanned magazine that I bought). They are also labelled with which expedition brought them up.
The bits and pieces are what affected me strongly. A tag about how luggage was separate into “not wanted” for the voyage. Slippers. Jewelry. Personal effects like toothbrushes and hairbrushes. A shaving brush. Perfumes from a perfume manufacturer. A watch. A clarionet. Plates heaped like dominoes in the sand at the bottom of the ocean bed.
The actual night of the tragedy is brought to life through temperature and colour. You walk through the hot boiler rooms and the text around you is red. It is explained how iceberg warnings were issued. How Titanic could withstand four of its watertight cabins being pierced, but not six, as the iceberg ripped into it. It becomes cold as you see the iceberg replica and see how it sank.
People died not from drowning but from hypothermia – because the sea water was so cold.
There is a wall in the exhibition that is just so sad. It lists the casualties according to class. Unfortunately the richer you are, the more likely you were to survive. But even that did not help everyone.
First class: Saved: 199, Lost: 125
Second class: Saved: 116, Lost: 168
Third class: Saved: 181, Lost: 529
Crew: Saved: 209, Lost: 701
Hearings were held afterwards and new laws and regulations were passed. Ships had to take a more southerly route and they had to have enough lifeboats for everyone on board.
I felt the heaviness but I also felt the history. I felt the work that went into this great ship and I read the stories of the people. I felt sad about what happened but I also appreciated the effort that went into displaying these incredible and poignant artifacts, resurrected from the ocean floor after lying there untouched for so long.
For more information you can follow the exhibition on Facebook or Twitter or go to www.titanicexpo.co.za . Tickets can be purchased via www.webtickets.co.za. The expo is at the Zone in Rosebank from 18th September until 8 November, before it moves to the Watershed at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town from 27th November until March 2016.