Tuesday, October 19, 2010

All Aboard the RMS Titanic!


I have always loved the story of the Titanic. That may seem morbid because obviously it was a tragedy, but there's something about it I find so fascinating. So, when the Melbourne Museum began it's exhibition, Titanic: The Artefact Exhibition, I knew I would head over there to check it out.

This exhibit has apparently been the most successful museum exhibition in Australia's history - so popular, in fact, that they extended it for another few weeks.

You have to book in advance, because practically every session is sold out. We had the 5pm timeslot, and joined the queue too climb aboard and receive our boarding White Star Line boarding pass, a particularly clever marketing tool. You hand over your ticket just as you're about to walk in, and the usher gives you a boarding pass that looks like this:
Flip it over and you'll see that they've personalised each boarding pass with an actual passenger's name, what class they were in, their age, where they were from, who they were traveling with, where they were traveling to once they disembarked at the end of the journey and a quick fact about the person. It makes the exhibition feel a lot more personal and emotional, as some people would no doubt have been looking at artefacts worn/owned or used by the passenger on their boarding pass. And of course at the end of the exhibit you find out if your person survived the journey/shipwreck.

Here's mine:
In case you can't quite read it I'll give you a quick run-down: my passenger was Mrs. John Borland Thayer (Marian Longstreth Morris) who traveled in first class. She was sailing from Cherbourg and traveling to Haverford, Pennsylvania after visiting her son Jack. She had also just been in Berlin with her husband as guests of the American General Consul. She survived. Once on board the Carpathia (the ship that resuced those in lifeboats - also known as the Ship of Widows) she was one of only four women rescued to be reunited with her husband.

So you can see the moment you step inside the exhibition you're already connected to someone traveling. The first parts of the exhibit are the Construction Gallery and the Departure Gallery, which focus on the design and construction of the ship and what it was like to set sail on that April day in 1912.

Then you get to the First Class Hallway & Grand Staircase replicas, which totally made me want to watch the movie right that very second. They've gone to a lot of trouble to bring parts of the ship to life as much as possible for patrons, and it was a lot of fun to walk through. Next stop is the Passenger Gallery, which details stories and has personal artefacts on display that have been recovered (fun fact: over 5,000 artefacts have been recovered from the ocean floor wreckage since it was discovered in 1985). Things like mens boots, toothbrush and toothpaste, jewelery, letters, postcards and clothing can be seen in varying degrees of decay (a lot of items were pristine - it was really quite incredible). Next you'll head into the Third Class Gallery where you'll seen the simple accommodation offered to passengers in steerage (which, incidentally, were a lot more generous than other ocean liners at the time).

After that you walk through a dark passage and enter the Iceberg Gallery. It's pitch black, except for spotlights on the display cases, and they've cleverly displayed stories and quotes on video and projectors to add to the frigid feeling in the room. They've also brought in a giant mound of ice with finger holes in it. Patrons are encouraged to put their fingers in the holes or place their hands on the ice to get a sense of just how freezing conditions were that fateful night (-2 degrees celsius in the water). It definitely sent a chill down my spine. As did this quote:
    "We have lived together for many years. Where you go, I go."
    - passenger Ida Strauss, who jumped off her lifeboat at the last second to reboard the Titanic to be with her husband as the ship went down.
Then you'll step through to the final two sections of the exhibiton: the Seabed Gallery, which shows how the wreckage was found and the process of receovering artefacts, and the Memorial Gallery, which is where patrons can stand in front of six large boards to see who lived and who died. Finally, there is a small gallery called Australian Stories, which details the Australians on board that night, where they came from, why they were on the ship, and if they survived.

The exhibition was fantastic. It took about two hours to wander round the entire thing (probably less if it hadn't been a Saturday) and it only costs $25 for an adult ticket. It closes on the 7th of November, 2010, and I really recommend it!
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2 comments:

Petite Carousel said...

I missed it when they were displaying in new york! Might go catch it before I miss it again =)

Thanks so much for participating in my first giveaway.

I'm offering a special discount to my blog readers as a token of appreciation, let me know if there's anything in the shop that you might like =)

Happy Wednesday!

Julia R said...

Thanks for reading! The exhibit it well worth it - but you have to book ahead online. All the sessions are filling up so fast!

You jewellery is gorgeous - I just love the vintage feel to the pieces.