Never has there been an event as catastrophic or storied in maritime lore quite like that of the Titanic. It is the story of an impermeable ship with giant expectations. It sought to revolutionize the way goods were shipped; improve and increase the transportation of immigrants; and change the game of luxury travel for the world's most wealthy. The word Titanic literally translates to "something of exceptional strength, size, or power." So how was this titan of the ocean, on its maiden voyage, dragged two miles deep into the dead black Northern Atlantic Ocean? We found out at The Fort Worth Museum of Science and History.
The Titanic Exhibit is simultaneously breathtaking and gut-wrenching. It is arranged in a mock chronology. The history of the ship is explored in the first room; the living quarters and life aboard the Titanic are displayed in the second room; the boiler room bowels of the ship are recreated in the third room; the iceberg and wreck are re-animated in the fourth room; the aftermath and the lives lost are experienced in the fifth room. Between the rooms there snakes informational hallways and reconstructions of actual passages on board the RMS Titanic. The experience is so perfectly laid out, and so vividly diverse that you will leave with a better understanding of the opulent and impoverished of 1912.
Because photography is prohibited in the exhibit, we have included some of the oddities that illustrate the eeriness and humanity of the Titanic wreckage below.
A bent and green calcified porthole called a "louver" without glass stares back at the audience like a hardened criminal. You can almost hear it say, "I have seen things that no living soul can repeat." It is bronze and as large as a basketball in diameter. The force required to contort such an object is only fathomable by expounded physics.
A young girl's golden bracelet polished back to its original beauty. The name "Amy" is cursively spelled out in gemstones, and it is assumed that this child was a first class passenger. There are stones in the name that have been lost into the Atlantic abyss, but these imperfections intensify the ominous nature of the personal piece of jewelry. The inherent innocence is magnified by how small the bracelet sits amongst the larger industrial restorations.
There are a scattered few post cards depicting the Titanic in its anticipated glory with restored color, and passenger handwriting. Items like these illustrate the hope and optimism each person held for the ship. In the minds of those aboard, it was the most exciting seaward adventure yet experienced by humanity. There was no chance of any malfunction ever occurring.
An exhausted and sea bloated lifeboat turnbuckle reminds those attending that the scant few lives saved were done through its threads. There should have been more turnbuckles to support more ships, but that is an error that had been overlooked due to Titanic's "unsinkable" nature.
There is a pitchforked telegraph handle that has been ocean soaked and fattened by the 73 years of its submerged existence. Intended for inter-ship communication, the message it was excavated with read: "full speed ahead".
A water tight door shaft has been brought up. It is one of many that were in charge of closing steel doors to the boiler room to prevent water from flooding the upper decks of the ship. The shaft is this and looks similar to an axle in a car found in a junk yard. It is rusted, bent, and splotched green.
In the same room as the door shaft are blown up photographs of "trimmers", the men that worked in the boiler room. The photos are comprised of dime sized pixels, and display young confident men grinning. Of the 910 crew on board the Titanic, only 209 were saved.
There is an old cone megaphone used for coordinating the transfer of large objects from port to ship. It is believed that these megaphones were reutilized in an attempt to organize the hysteria that was occurring on the night of iceberg impact.
The Titanic exhibit is interactive and emotionally moving. At the entrance to the display, each guest is handed a reprinted passenger's ticket. The ticket lists the name, age, reason for venture, and which class the passenger was traveling. At the end of the exhibit there is a large board that displays each class and those that were saved and those that were lost. The name I was handed, Joseph Philippe LaRoche, was a second class passenger who did not survive the voyage. It is more likely that upon visitation you will be handed a doomed passenger's boarding pass; of the 2,224 on board only 722 survived.
The Titanic Artifact Exhibit is a beautifully done history lesson that will leave the museum goers breathless. It is an impactful and diverse recount of one the largest seaward disasters ever to occur in the modern world. The whole experience lasts comfortably under two hours, and is well worth the admission price. The exhibit is on display at The Fort Worth Museum of Science and History until March 24, 2013.
For more information, you can contact the museum at 817-255-9540, or visit their website at fortworthmuseum.org.