Monday, August 27, 2007

The Titanic Exhibition in Victoria

I went to Victoria over the weekend to see the Titanic Artifact Exhibition at the Royal BC Museum, and I highly recommend it for anyone who might be interested. My friend has been a huge fan since doing a project on the Titanic in his childhood years and he was insistent that we had to see this once-in-a-lifetime exhibit. Admittedly, I wasn't as thrilled about the Titanic since my only experience with it was through the eyes of Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio, but I agreed to go since any vacation was a welcome one. Let me tell you about some highlights of the exhibit.

Upon entering, you are given replica Titanic boarding passes with the name of a real individual who boarded the Titanic in 1912. I was thrilled to be a first class passenger while my friend was unlucky as a third class passenger. He brooded about this throughout the exhibit since I always pointed out the much less classy conditions a third class passenger lived in compared to the sickeningly luxurious quarters of a first class passenger. There are real artifacts including dishes and clothing in glass cases collected from the rubble surrounding the Titanic and tons of information on the Edwardian time period and the building and conditions of the Titanic. It was shocking for me to discover that the Titanic was built so quickly that builders later heard hammering and knocking in the now-sealed bottom walls of the ship. It was possible that someone had been sealed into the ship structure and left to die (since no one opened it up again due to time constraints). This was only one of very many bad omens surrounding the building of the Titanic.

There are volunteers in the exhibit that have lots of great information and stories about the Titanic and I was sad to hear that the life jackets were made of cork which would have become water logged and heavy over time in the water. I'm glad that we've come a long way from cork life jackets. At the end of the exhibit there is a wall-sized list of all the individuals who were aboard the Titanic in 1912. The 3 classes of passengers are listed separately and they tell you if that individual lived or died. You can compare your boarding pass to this list and children ran to their parents announcing whether they had lived or died. It was a curious feeling to think that individuals just like us had been aboard that ship and had really lived or died depending mainly on whether they were first class, second class, or third class. The group of individuals that actually lost the most lives was not third class, but the crew members.

If you plan to see the Titanic exhibition in Victoria, BC, I recommend seeing the IMAX film, Titanica, beforehand. It gives you an overview of the Titanic story and some perspective into the collecting of the artifacts shown in the exhibit. It is interesting to note that none of the artifacts are taken from inside the ship. Because the ship is considered a grave site, only artifacts that fell in the rubble areas around the ship have been collected for preservation. It is also interesting to note that there are no skeletons left to be seen. Even the bones have dissolved in the calcium-depleted waters around the sunken Titanic.

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