Saturday, April 21, 2012

Titanic Artifact Exhibition in Atlanta

Last week in my post “Reading about RMS Titanic while at sea” I showed books and pictures on the Titanic. I had heard that there was an exhibition of Titanic artifacts in Atlanta but we had not planned to attend. After reading more about it on their site which said “There is no more poignant way to experience Titanic 100 years later than through the authentic artifacts that have been recovered from the wreck site…“ we decided to go after all. Thursday 12 April was sunny and a lovely day so we drove to the new part of Atlanta where the exhibition is located. We had never been there. It is called “Atlantic Station.”

The exhibition was on the second floor where I could see the area below. Atlantic Station is on the northwestern edge of Midtown Atlanta. This used to be the site of the Atlantic Steel mill. Urban planners in the mid-90s designed a 138 acres (558,000 m2) mixed-use neighborhood which opened in 2005. It includes townhouses, condos, restaurants, major shopping like well-known retailers and IKEA, a theater, office buildings, public transportation and the Premier Exhibition Center. It is within walking distance of Georgia Tech. It was around 11:30 am and not many people were going into the exhibit. You can see my reflection below taking a picture of the poster.

Our tickets were a facsimile of an actual White Star Line Boarding Pass for the Titanic. On the reverse was the name of a passenger, the class, reason for traveling. There was a large board at the end of the exhibit where we could cross-check to see if we had survived the trip or not. My husband’s boarding pass was for Mr. Kurt Arnold Gottfrid Bryhl , 25, of Skara, Sweden, in 2nd class. Sailing from Southampton he was going to Rockford, Illinois accompanied by his sister and her fiancé. The second class in the Titanic was equivalent to the first class in other ocean liners.

My boarding pass was for Mrs. Victor de Satode Pemasco y Castellana, 17, from Madrid, Spain, in first class. Sailing from Cherbourg, France, she had been on an adventurous honeymoon with her extremely wealthy husband Victor. While staying in Paris, they decided to extend the magic with a transatlantic voyage on Titanic. Victor’s mother had warned the couple against taking a trip by sea, saying it was back luck. The price for her first class ticket was $2,500 then or $57,200 in today’s money, although she could have been in the most luxurious suite which was $4,500 then or $103,000 in today’s money. A third class ticket was $40 then or $900 in today’s money. (I just checked and a May 2012 transatlantic crossing on Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 is $702 (inside stateroom) on a discounted site.)

My husband and I used the audio guides. Everything was well explained and there were loads of information. Pictures were not allowed inside the exhibition but I found some on their site online. RMS Titanic, Inc. owners of the exhibition listed what we would see:

• 212 artifacts recovered from Titanic's wreck site
• 100 of which have never been seen before
• Discover untold stories of Titanic's passengers and crew- unveiled for the first time anywhere
• Learn of Georgia's connections to that fateful night
• Experience historically accurate room recreations
• View the latest video from the wreck site and understand how Titanic rests today.

(photo courtesy RMS Titanic, Inc.)

I took copious notes. I found out that the Titanic had been built in Ireland but that J. Pierpont Morgan had used some of his enormous wealth to create a trust and then had gained ownership of the White Star Line – so in fact the ship was American. Ten thousand men worked almost three years to construct the ship hull and internal structure. The men worked 6 days a week in 9 hours a day shift. The ship was launched on 31st May, 1911 with a crowd of 100,000 watching. Below is my postcard which is a replica of a launch ticket.

Then it was the turn of 3,000 carpenters, electricians, plumbers, painters, etc. to toil to complete the ship. Below is another postcard which says “The new White Star Liner “Titanic” 45,000 tons nearing completion; docked in the largest graving dock in the world. Belfast, February 1912.

On Wednesday 10 April, 1912 the Titanic left Southampton, England. The Titanic used 14,000 gallons of drinking water every 24 hours. To serve the 65,000 meals a day many provisions had been taken, such as 75,000 pounds of fresh meat, 11,000 pounds of fresh fish, 25,000 pounds of fresh poultry and game, 7,500 pounds of bacon and ham, 40,000 fresh eggs, 16,000 lemons, 2,200 pounds of coffee, 800 pounds of tea, 6,000 pounds of fresh butter and so on and on. To serve all this there were 57,000 pieces of crockery – plates, cups and dishes, 29,000 pieces of glassware, etc. Some were recovered and were inside glass cases. Below is a case of 1st class china and silver (courtesy RMS Titanic, Inc.)

We watched some videos of life aboard ship and walked in front of a re-creation of an ornate first-class cabin.

Inside other glass cases I saw a racing form dated July 1911 from the Australian Waterloo Cup, and it could still be read. There was a gold necklace with 3 gold nuggets attached. I saw a medicine vial from France with crystals still in the bottle, silver handkerchiefs and a chignon pin. Below is a make-up jar with make-up still inside.

There were many story boards giving information on the backgrounds of the passengers, crew, officers and engineers. Mr. Jacques Futrelle, pictured below by Father Browne, was from Georgia. He had started the sports section in the Atlanta Journal and was the author of a series of short stories featuring the logical detective known as the “Thinking Machine.” He was offered a lifeboat seat which he turned down but urged his wife to get aboard. Unfortunately, he perished.

Another former Georgian was Isidor Straus. His family had emigrated from Germany in 1854 then went to live in the small town of Talbotton in Georgia where he grew up. Later he was to become co-owner of Macy’s department store. He was coming back from an extended stay in Europe with his wife Ida. He also declined a seat in a lifeboat. His wife refused to leave him. Eyewitnesses reported her saying to her husband “As we have lived, so will we die together. Isidor, my place is with you.” They were last seen seating on the deck. Their picture is below.

We continued our visit and saw the massive steel door of the D-Deck, part of a candelabra, a rusted port hole and compass, water stained money, a sink, a wall telephone from Alfred Graham and Co., and more.

In a dark room, quite warm, was the replica of the boiler room. Reddish-orange lights came out of the boilers and pictures of the firemen who died while shoveling coal to keep the electricity running in the ship were on the wall. There were 159 furnaces on the ship which consumed up to 825 tons of coal per day.

The distance required to stop the Titanic was about half a mile so it could not have stopped in time to avoid the iceberg. The ship hit the iceberg off Newfoundland’s Grand Banks 30 seconds or so after its sighting. It was a moonless night (icebergs can usually be seen by their reflection in the moonlight) and the sea was calm, so there were no waves around the icebergs either. The ship hit the iceberg at 11:40 pm, lights went out at 2:18 am and the stern disappeared in the water at 2:20 am. I watched a National Geographic Special last week on an expedition taken this year to see if the ship had weak points or had not been designed properly. The results were that the ship was very strong which is why it lasted as long as it did – other ships with that kind of damage would have sunk in minutes. Below is a picture of “Le Petit Journal” a French newspaper in its April 1912 edition: “La perte du plus grand paquebot du monde.” (The loss of the largest ship in the world.)

For its time the R.M.S. Titanic was the most luxurious and largest passenger ship in the world.  The Titanic led the way in technical innovation and exclusive accomodations.  The public believed that this ship was unsinkable.  I have heard though that a fire started in a three-story high fuel store kept burning up to three weeks and could not be extinguished.  It was too large to control and it reached close to 1000 C.  This fire was in the area of the ship where it was later struck by the iceberg.  The ship steel hull could have been weakened by this enormous fire and have contributed to its demise.

The Titanic disappeared 2.5 miles beneath the ocean surface. Once hitting the water even if the passengers could swim they could only survive about 20 minutes in the 28 degree F (-2 C) temperature of the water. So most of them did not drown but died from hypothermia. The wreck of the Titanic was discovered on September 1, 1985 by a joint U.S./French expedition directed by Dr. Robert Ballard and Jean Louis Michel. It was located 453 miles southeast of the Newfoundland coastline. (The discovery of the Titanic stemmed from a secret US Navy investigation of two wrecked nuclear submarines the USS Thresher and USS Scorpion.) There were many pictures and a video explaining this underwater expedition. Below is a picture from the Sea Bed Gallery at the exhibition.

These are pictures from the National Geographic expedition. The top left picture is the bathroom of Captain Smith.

(Photos courtesy Premier Exhibitions, Inc. and National Geographic Society.)

After spending decades under water at a pressure of 6,000 pounds per square inch the wreck is also being eaten by microbes forming icicle-shaped “rusticles” as can be seen pictured below (courtesy Wikipedia.)

There is no known preservation technique right now to conserve the ship which is slowly being consumed by these eating microbes. Oceanographers suspect that within 40 to 90 years the wreck will implode and collapse. Since the Titanic cannot be brought back, oceanographers say that they can still bring back artifacts to keep the memory alive and to serve as a memorial for all the people lost in this great tragedy. I think that it is fine to bring back some items from the ship but I feel uneasy about disturbing the many personal items of those who lost their lives – this is their final resting place. This is a grave. On April 15, every year, the U.S. Coast Guard’s International Ice Patrol, which was created in direct response to the Titanic disaster, places a wreath over the Titanic’s final resting place.

Titanic leaving Southampton by E. E. Walker, English contemporary

We looked at the list of passengers on a billboard in the final exhibition room. It showed that Mr. Bryhl from Sweden, on my husband’s Boarding Pass, did not survive. Mrs. Victor de Satode Pemasco y Castellana from Spain, on my Boarding Pass, was saved but her husband Victor was not.

Before leaving the exhibit we stopped at the souvenir shop. They had quite an assortment of items for sale.

My husband bought a special 100 anniversary edition book and I bought a tea cup modeled from 3rd class and a pin.

We did enjoy this exhibit. The sinking of the Titanic is such a tragic historical event that seeing all these artifacts and the haunting details of this doomed voyage made us understand better this heartbreaking disaster. I’ll end by quoting parts of the poem written by Father Francis Browne shortly after the Titanic sank.

In Memoriam

A Ship rode forth on the Noonday tide,
Rode forth to the open sea,
And the high sun shone on the good ship’s side,
And all seem gladness, and hope and pride
For a gallant sight was she.

(from Father Browne pictures)

For the crew was strong, and the captain brave,
And never a fear had they,
Never a thought for the turbulent wave,
Never a dread of a watery grave,
Nor dreams of a fateful day.

The Ship that rode on noonday tide,
Rode forth to the open sea,
But gone are the gladness, and hope and pride,
For the Northern Ocean’s depth could hide,
A mightier power than she.

– Father Francis M. H.. Browne, Irish 1880-1960
French and Belgian Croix de Guerre.

Passing PickieTitanic passing Bangor, Ireland on sea trials April 2, 1912 painted by Deborah Wenlock, British, contemporary


Note: Blogger Break - Post pre-programmed.


Pondside said...

I saw the very same exhibition! My ticket was for a mother, travelling first class with her daughters after a trip to Europe to buy one daughter's trousseau. The Great Dane had the ticket for a young tradesman going to a new life in the New World. My character and her daughters all survived, the tradesman didn't.

Diane said...

Another great post and what an interesting one. The exhibition looks excellent. Such a sad ending to what should have been a fantastic story.
Bonne journée. Diane

Elaine said...

Very interesting posts about the Titanic! You've told the story well. I have a couple of souvenir books that I got at the Titanic museum in Branson. The museum there has much the same things as your exhibition in Atlanta, and we too had tickets for passengers. I don't remember who we were, but I believe mine survived and my husband's did not. The memorabilia is really quite fascinating. One of the books I bought was the story of Polar the Titanic Bear, and it's the story of a little boy who had a Steiff polar bear. He took him on his travels with his parents and they were among the survivors on the Titanic when he was six years old. Tragically little Douglas died in a traffic accident three years later. So many of the stories of the people on the Titanic are very sad, even those who were among the "lucky" ones who survived.

Fennie said...

I am fascinated and have explored the website to which you directed me. I suppose we can comprehend the loss of the Titanic; all seems relatively simple and everybody being on a ship, at one place and time, almost makes it seem as though we are viewing something on the stage or cinema. More people lose their lives in earthquakes and in wars and we scarce remember the place or the name of a battle. Incidentally had I died on the Titanic or if I die on another ship I wouldn't mind at all if someone were to disturb my watery grave. I'd be more likely to be remembered if someone brought up my wristwatch or shoelaces. So I say go ahead, bring up all you can.

Jojo said...

You were just around the corner from my office, so to speak! Oh I wish we could have met up for lunch. What a wonderful exhibit. I know there are many who say the watery grave shouldn't be disturbed but the recovered items tell us so much about about the passengers and the time. Seeing someone's makeup or pill bottle or hairpins makes me imagine guests preparing for an evening dance. I've never watched that dramatic movie with the sappy song but I do appreciate studying the ship, the time period and the people on board.

Down by the sea said...

In England we have also had lots of coverage about the Titantic over the last few weeks. I didn't realise that of the 1523 that died 549 of them came from Southampton (a third) so the shock and grief in the city was very great. I discovered after reading your 2 wonderful posts that they have an exhibition so I must go and see it. Being given tickets with passengers names on must have made it poignant.
Sarah x

Rosaria Williams said...

So tragic! I tend to freeze when I see these memorabilia. Yet, we are all curious in some ways.

OldLady Of The Hills said...

This sounds like it was such a fantastic exhibit. Everything about it---including your Boarding Passes---so well thought out so that each person coming to this exhibit would have an incredible experience---And, of course, your writing about it---FANTASTIC, Vagabonde! Truly. This had to be such a moving exhinit---and I was moved reading about it and seeing it through your eyes...! I Thank You, my dear.

Unknown said...

Beautiful and relevant post about Titanic exibition.
Thanks for sharing those memorabilia.
Hugs from Portugal!

DJan said...

Very moving post about a tragedy that fascinates me to this day. I cried when I read about Isidor and Ida Straus. They lived together and died together. The exhibition is one I would love to see, but your visit and description have served me well. I am satisfied that if I never see it, I have had the next best thing: a recollection by you. Well researched, but of course now I expect that every time, and I am never disappointed.

Jenny Woolf said...

It is a good idea to give tickets with passenger names. I am always amazed at the number of Titanic artefacts that were preserved, but I suppose that right from the start the horror of it caught the public imagination, maybe because it was supposed to be unsinkable.

chlost said...

I agree with you that it is a grave for many people and should not be subjected to grave robbing. I feel that most of those who want artifacts are trying to make money off of them.
The incident itself is not something that I have felt close to, and have never done any real investigation of what happened. I learned a lot from your post. Thanks!

Val said...

a fascinating exhibit - thank you. I am with you on the grave robbing sensitivities - but i am also fascinated with the historical context, and the personal items make it all so real.

Sally Wessely said...

Anything about the Titanic is always so fascinating. I think this same exhibit was in Denver a few years ago. I had the opportunity to see it. You did a great job of capturing the various artifacts.

Vicki Lane said...

A fascinating exhibit... and you are a wonderful tour guide!

Jeanne said...

what an interesting post this is and sounds like a great exhibition. I had the chance to go the the Titanic museum in Nova Scotia and it was also very interesting . Thanks so much for sharing this. so well done

Christine said...

I am with Fennie on this one.
I really appreciated your description of your visit.
My mother remembered the ship going down and HER mother was very upset and cried for days afterwards. The annoying thing is that I can't remember whether it was Nanna's Sister or Auntie who perished. I am researching my Nanna's family at the present and, although it is taking up a lot of my time, I feel a need to confirm who it was so if anyone wants to bring anything up that belonged to her - go ahead. To retain her memory keeps the rest of the family 'alive'

Arti said...

This exhibit came to our city last year, but for some reasons I didn't go. And then when I visited Las Vagas in Feb., it was in our hotel, and then for the second time, I decided not to see it. Don't know why. But your post just about sums it all up for me, giving me a virtual tour. Now, my question is, out of curiosity, since you've seen so many facts (books and artifacts... etc.) do you think the movie (James Cameron's) is a true to life rendition of the Titanic tragedy?

Olga said...

Very interesting post. Honestly, I wouldn't go to this exhibition. So sad.

Christine said...

Thankyou for this fascinating and detailed post. I thought the idea of giving out tickets in the names of the passengers really brings home the reality of it all - these were real people living their lives when they were caught up in a tragic accident. In many ways you have illustrated this very well.

Lonicera said...

I read somewhere about this exhibition and I thought to myself "I'll bet Vagabonde visits that one!" I particularly liked the recreation of the first class cabin - you really get a feel for what it would have been like. Enjoyed this post very much.

Dianne said...

the painting is beautiful

the exhibit looks interesting

hope you're enjoying your break :)

Shammickite said...

I was in Southampton England on the date of the Titanic's 100 year anniversary. There was a lot of TV coverage, and a new Titanic Museum opened in Southampton, but I didn't go to the grand opening.... it was a zoo with thousands of people there. I have been to the Titanic grave site in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where the graves are arranged in the shape of a ship.
My nephew in Southampton was the postman for Millvina Dean, the last survivor of the Titanic sinking. She made quite a career of being the last survivor, but of course didn't remember it as she was only a baby when she was wrapped in a sack and lowered into a lifeboat in the frigid North Atlantic.

Perpetua said...

Such an interesting and poignant post about what was obviously a fascinating and informative exhibition, Vagabonde. I agree that the wreck is a grave and should not be disturbed unnecessarily.

Miss_Yves said...

Je vais aller voir celle de Cherbourg à la cité de la mer

juan pablo said...

hola soy juan pablo desde españa y megustraia mucho que esta exposicion vinera a mi pais ya que soy un gran aficionado al titanic y gracias

Miguel de la Torre Padilla said...

Paso a visitar tu blog y me quedo como amigo, te felicito por tu empeño y sacrificio en este tu espacio, desde Jaen un saludo y feliz semana

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