Titanic: The Artefact Exhibition

This afternoon we finally went to the museum for the Titanic exhibition, something I actually meant to do right around its opening. Nevertheless, I’ll ramble for a bit about it and see where the post heads…

Before our allocated entrance time we spent a little while in the insect displays… I really wanted to look at everything (and Adam wants to spend a day just in the insect section) but there were so many MOTH specimens that immediately I got hot and overwhelmed by fear and had to run off. I found a safer section of nice harmless tarantulas, ants and such, and braved the place for a little while. I attempted to ‘help’ my fear by looking at a picture of a bogong moth yesterday (probably not a good species to start with, ugh) and straight-away broke down shaking and crying. Adam reassured me because he loves bugs and will always deal with them when needed. I have a healthy aversion to certain insects but usually like to examine them (especially spiders and tiny things under the microscope), but this ‘mottephobia’ can be quite paralyzing. Logic doesn’t win out and … well, now I need to stop talking about them.

So, Titanic. We were given a boarding pass each and had a random photo taken (I wonder how many people objected to this over the course of the exhibition?!). It was a linear type experience, and the crowds were thick and awkward because text displays were often near doorways and there were about five areas perfectly set up for bottlenecks. This made it hard to see things, to move around, or to make your way back through. They encouraged you to stay as long as you like, but we ended up not wanting to because it was quite a claustrophobic atmosphere, except in perhaps two areas. Children were fine but adults kept lingering and blocking walkways so we tended to spend more time navigating crowds than experiencing something special. I think we could’ve avoided this by getting VIP tickets earlier.

From left to right: the entrance, our awkward grand staircase picture, boarding pass scans, pieces from an earlier exhibition (Kate Florence Phillips’ necklace and some 1997 film costumes), and my small personal collection (missing some pieces).

On the large scale they had reconstructions of the grand staircase (rather overwhelmed me at first, and we were photographed there), a first and third-class corridor and room (complete with atmospheric boiler-room noises), and café façade. On display was a 2-tonne piece of the hull, a door from the D-deck, and an enormous sheet of ice to give people an idea of the temperatures of ice in the Atlantic. Among other pieces could be found one of the cherubs, various tools, wrenches, crockery, coal, floor tiles, portholes, china basins, an ornate window frame, a chamber pot, and a spittoon. There were a lot of personal effects in rather good condition for things that had been 4km underwater for 90 years or so. Things like coins, banknotes, razors, telegrams and documents, jewellery, a pocket watch, buttons, and perfume vials belonging to perfumer Mr. Adolphe Saalfeld (who was rescued). A suit, leather belt, steward’s jacket, a trilby hat and a large paisley cravat were also preserved quite well.

We didn’t really stop to read things since rather detailed Titanic history books have been in the family for decades and the information isn’t hard to come by, but overall the artefacts were fascinating and had we been alone there may have been time to react more thoughtfully to things. Many documentaries we have seen on the subject have invoked more sadness and respect than I think this exhibition did. Around 10 years ago (maybe more?) Ballarat hosted a smaller exhibition which we went to. It was nothing like the scale of this one and had a lot less artefacts from the wreck. It wasn’t crowded but was a little more focused on the cashing-in after the 1997 film. We’re still very glad to have gone today but are left with mixed feelings.

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