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Today in Titanic History - with Searching
Today in
Titanic History

Friday, July 12, 2024
1941 - 1st class survivor Mrs Malvina Helen Cornell died in New York, USA at the age of 84.

1972 - 2nd class survivor Miss Kate Buss died of heart failure / disease in Independence, Oregon, USA at the age of 96.

1892 - 3rd class passenger Mr Peter Andreas Lauritz Andersen Sřholt was born.

1911 - 3rd class survivor Miss Helene Barbara Baclini was born to Solomon Baclini and Latifa Qurban Baclini.

1924 - 3rd class survivor Mr Neshan Krekorian married Persa Vartanian, who was not on the Titanic.

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The Artifact Exhibition (Seattle)


The Space Needle was beautiful; I've always thought so. The whole city was bathed in sunshine and about a month remained before I'd be going to the Titanic Artifact Exhibit in Seattle. As I drove over the crest of a nearby hill, the Needle emerged, newly crowned with an enormous red and white White Star Line flag. The sight was amazing and it brought a smile to my face that all of Seattle could see this symbol of the Titanic. I wanted to take a picture of it, though all I had with me was a 35mm camera with black and white film in it. Another day passed and it was still there, and then it was gone. I have yet to find out what happened but my assumption is that it was bad timing and the irony was probably too much for people. George W. Bush was coming into town, the major aircraft manufacturer Boeing announced it would be leaving the area, and this booming tech city was getting hit with the full throws of the dot-com bust. There could be no greater omen or parallel than could be found in Titanic's optimism and ultimate demise.

I'd bought my tickets months in advance to assure I could go to the exhibit on April 15th at 2:20pm. It would be the 89-year anniversary of the sinking and since 2:20am wasn't available, 2:20pm seemed right. Everywhere were billboards, signs, and radio commercials beckoning people to visit. As we drove up I was fully excited to be going. Vertical banners flapped in the wind just outside the Seattle Center, at the foot of the Space Needle. The open eating and walking spaces were decorated with small White Star Line flags and circular life preservers. Seemingly randomly there were signs and archways declaring things like "Port of Queenstown" and "Port of Southampton."

Outside the Exhibit
(click for larger view)
They wanted us to feel that we were really boarding the ship herself. Everything on the exterior of the building fell short of the opulence and grace of everything I'd seen of Titanic and even the pier in Southampton. The Seattle Center was distinctly designed during the sixties for the World's Fair, something that detracted from the effect they were trying to achieve. We lined up in front of a pair of doors and a plainly clothed young man passed out pieces of off-white paper. He asked the group if we realized we were there on the anniversary of the sinking. I scoffed when I saw the majority of people there had no idea. What's worse is they were not amused by the timing of their visit. The man explained that we were about to board Titanic with boarding passes, complete with the name of a real passenger and their class. I got a third class man and my friend had a crewmember. I told her both our chances of making it out alive were slim; third class men and crew were the least likely to survive.

We stepped through the doors into a great gaping black room. We passed a quote on the wall and entered the first main room. This was dedicated to the construction and exterior amenities of the ship. Beneath our feet were shifting and creaking decking boards. The room was closed in on all sides with blown up historical images, a television, and more quotes on the walls. In the center of the room was a coffin-length Plexiglas case with a scale model of Titanic inside. The accuracy was phenomenal; every tiny detail, every little window was in place. My minimal knowledge of the ship became all the more dwarfed when my friend asked about something on the model and I didn't know what it was.

Once we'd circled the room, we walked out with a stream of people along more decking that was somewhat raised off the floor. It was mimicking the pier with crates and luggage along the sides and an arched and riveted white doorway after a few feet.

First class stateroom
(click for larger view)
In turning a corner, a first class stateroom appeared. It was unexpected and exciting, prompting me to get the camera out. There had been a sign saying we couldn't take any pictures, but with my trusty digital camera, I was able to turn off the flash. Light damages artifacts, antiques, and the like so without a flash there would be no more damage than simply looking at it. The stateroom was little more than a bed and a lounge chair, though the wallpaper, the rich color, and the proximity to me made me forget that for the moment. Really, the furniture was sub par and the room was sparse, but I shudder to imagine how much the exhibit would have cost me if they'd recreated an entire first class suite. This gave the general idea and was fancier than the houses most of us live in. Down the hall a bit was another Plexiglas case with a safe that had been "salvaged" from the wreck. The line was slowing down as people were gawking at the next room. Through a doorway and we were in the Palm Court Café.

The Palm Court Café
(click for larger view)
Three facades of the vaulted ceiling were arranged behind Plexiglas protected tables covered in dishes. They'd all been taken from the wreck site, but they were shiny like they were brand new. Anything we could get close to, like a round table and a chair between the cases with dishes, were plain, modern knock-offs of the era. Some of the styles didn't even resemble anything aboard Titanic, not even of the Edwardian age.

Through another plain doorway and suddenly I was in a dream state. Sheltered by the sparkling chandeliers adorning the clean white ceiling, we were all facing the Grand Staircase. This most reminded me of the end of the movie when Rose is reunited with Jack. It was like we were all awaiting her return, gathering together because we knew she would be arriving soon. Walking along the tiled floor, I snapped pictures, my formerly quiet camera seeming so loud now. I'd started to hear comments of "I didn't know we could take pictures." I responded that we weren't but that I wasn't using a flash. I hoped they understood why that was.

The Grand Staircase
(click for larger view)
The crowd was thick by the base of the stairs and there was a young woman there taking questions about the staircase. Her real purpose was to make sure no one jumped the rope to walk on it. She was dressed in a mock-Titanic dress and her hair was up. All the while I was snapping pictures, most of which were blocked by backs of heads or the body of much taller oblivious strangers. I was trying to get the statue the woman was standing beside but for the life of me I couldn't. She spotted me and told me not to take pictures. I told her I wasn't using a flash (having become a broken record).

Dome of the Grand Staircase
(click for larger view)
To which she gave me the condescending yet pleasant smile of anyone dealing with the general public and said, "Don't take pictures." A few more people blocked my way and the chances of getting that statue fell away. From the back wall I snapped two more pictures, my favorites of them all. If I hadn't been there to see it for myself, I wouldn't have known that the light in the center of the dome is a chandelier just like the smaller ones on the ceiling. The light rained down from the rim of the dome and the dome itself. The railings of the Grand Staircase gracefully unfurl and beckon you to ascend from all directions. I felt quite like Jack must have felt in hiding his awe of this ornate fantasy.

Third class Passageway
(click for larger view)
Just as I had eagerly pressed on to see the Staircase, people behind wanted to see it too, so we had to move on.

A plain doorway herded us down a white hallway with clean white pipes running along the ceiling. The lights on either side and the backup in the hall was eerily reminiscent of the confused crowds awakened in the night and instructed to get their lifebelts on. To our right was a third class room with two sets of bunk beds all made up with red blankets and luggage strewn on them. Between the beds, on the wall were a mirror and a foldout shelf.

Third class Room
(click for larger view)
The quarters were close and it was plain the contrast they were trying to show between the classes. I was loving getting to see the ship in all her glory, though the end was nearer than we thought.

The next hallway was blackened with the ceiling distant and ominous again, noises of machinery, shoveling coal, and gears playing from above our heads. Over the doorway at the end of the hallway was a watertight door, so it was as if we were walking through the boiler room and out through one of the watertight doors. Dappled red light shone across it and there was a sense of urgency to get out of this place. Who could forget the vivid picture created by the movie when a boiler room worker barely made it under one of those doors as it closed?

An entire room dedicated to the sinking awaited us. Giant sheets of cloth covered in tiny lights were the night sky above us. Ghostly light on the walls spelled out quotes said about that fateful night; a documentary of computer animation of the sinking played on a monitor to our left. By the walls and in the center of the room were cases holding artifacts like binoculars, a thermometer (which broke from the sudden change in temperature), instruments from the bridge, and other poignant items. At the far wall was a wall of ice, taller than the people standing beside it and covered in the handprints of people who'd tried to melt it. A sign explained that the wall of ice was as cold as the water would have been that night and asked us how long we could leave our hands on it. A single person could not leave their hand on the ice and create a print, at least not in leaving their hand on the wall continuously. My friend and I tried leaving our hands on and with my poor circulation my hand started burning. A boy wearing headphones for the audio tour held his hand much longer than I could.

Wall of Ice
(click for larger view)
For ten solid minutes my hand might as well have been left on a stovetop coil. My hand shook as I took more pictures, which included one shot of the boy who still had his hand on the ice and would surely not be leaving that wall until his hand needed to be amputated.

In front of the right wall was what was touted as "The Big Piece." Towering above us all was a sheet of that brittle steel from the hull of the ship. Windows and portholes ranged from opened and shattered to closed and intact. It was in horrible shape, even considering its rapid descent to the bottom of the Atlantic. In fact, in getting it to the surface it was dropped and had to be pulled up again. In front of the monstrous hull fragment stood a pedestal with a circle cut out of the top, which was low enough so that children could tip-toe and get their fingers in. Inside was a wavy, crumbling piece just like "The Big Piece" only cut into a tiny square. This was part of the "hands on" experience of the exhibit. You got the chance to touch an actual piece of Titanic. The line was growing and it seemed a little trite to me so we moved on. The crowds shuffled to one end of the hull piece and back around it so we could see the other side. The inside was all the more mangled under the rippling green and blue lights. People lingered there and I took pictures while there were no exhibit workers around. We walked through a warmly lit room with copies of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and other local papers announcing the sinking on the walls. The remarkable things were what was going on having nothing to do with Titanic. Natural disasters, economic changes, and general news had taken precedence over the news of Titanic as the story became older and the new information dwindled. Life continued without Titanic, just like it has after every great tragedy. This put you more into the daily lives of people who weren't on the ship and made me question whether anyone would be so obsessed with it if it had just happened. The center of this smaller room had cases of paper money taken from Titanic, currency from all over the world and some in worse shape than others. The idea that any of this survived was astonishing.

We were really entering the part of the exhibit that focused on the commonness of the passengers. A case held things like combs, toothbrushes, and other tiny articles people would have taken on the voyage.

Bowler Hat
(click for larger view)
We snaked our way up two fairly steep ramps with cases running down the middle. It was pitch black except for strange little tubes with lights at the ends of them inside the cases. They were fiber optic lights, used so they wouldn't damage the cloth artifacts, and they made the objects glow hauntingly. They were also lit from beneath and when I saw a bowler hat riddled with holes, I knew I needed to take a picture to show them. I remembered Jack having worn a bowler hat to disguise himself and find Rose and later when I saw suspenders, I remembered the pair Jack wore. I could easily imagine someone aboard owning these things and not thinking of them as valuable or significant. And yet there we were seeing them under glass and perfectly preserved with special lighting. I realized just how normal a voyage this was to be and that their safe crossing was taken for granted.


Model of the Wreck
(click for larger view)
The second ramp had part of a bench, a water heater from the Captain's quarters, an ornate window, and suspended above was a huge yellow submersible. Walking under its belly, we could see lots of the detail in its design. We were crossing the gap of 74 years to the discovery of the wreck. Here was a room much like the very first one that was dedicated to the building of Titanic. It was abuzz with the din of another television telling the story of the wreck, the humming of lighted aquariums with submerged pieces inside, and people talking and pointing, after having been respectfully quiet for the last few passageways. The center of the room mirrored the scale model only this one had the bow section of the wreck. I circled it, taking pictures, noticing just how beautiful it still was.

Yellow Submersible
(click for larger view)
There was another submersible nestled next to a wall and aquariums leading us toward another passage. It was noted that the artifacts were left in water because they didn't know how they would react to being out of water after so many years. They feared the flaky little pieces might just disintegrate. We rounded the corner to see lists of names on one side and blown up photos of survivors and victims on the other. Here we would find out if we lived.

The lists on the wall visually struck me. The classes were posted from left to right from first to third and then the crew. Within each class, the top group would be survivors and the bottom group would perish. The balance of survivors versus victims obviously tipped from most first class people surviving to very few of the third class surviving. It reminded me that I was a third class male on my ticket. We all gathered around these lists, just like people in Southampton and New York would have done to see if their loved one had survived the sinking. My friend, the crewmember, had survived… and so had I. Part of me believed that they only handed out names of people who survived so as to not upset people but we did hear other people saying that their person had died.


Passenger lists on the wall
(click for larger view)
At the end of the exhibit a guestbook was provided so we could say how much we loved the exhibit. I chose not to gush, as I have at points here, but made a tentative decision that it's wrong to have brought these items to the surface. I'm still torn. No one will benefit from leaving these pieces at the bottom of the ocean, but people on land will pluck them from the wreck and make money off touring them around the world. No one should profit from a tragedy caused by people who were driven by profit. I left the URL to this website so that other people might visit, or people in the far future will know it existed.

As I signed the book an exhibit worker saw my camera and walked up behind me and told me I shouldn't have been taking pictures. If no one but he had told me that it would have been quite the useless comment since I couldn't very well refrain from taking more pictures of anything else. But I had been told once so far, so I had my response ready. Wandering through the gift shop showed all the twisted junk people have tried to hock under the name Titanic. There was the candy Runts in a tube capped with a plastic Titanic, blue floppy plastic water wigglies having nothing to do with Titanic except that they had little icebergs in them and Titanic printed on them, and dingy life preservers with simulated damage to them. What they carried in the gift shop threatened to cheapen the effort to make it a respectful exhibit.

We walked out into the afternoon sunshine, our dilated eyes taking time to adjust. Because we'd walked up ramps before, we were a story higher than the entrance and on an open courtyard. People in shorts and typical tourist gear sat drinking their soft drinks and eating popcorn. This was 2001 again and as we left I snapped a final picture of the outside of the exhibit.


The Titanic Artifact Exhibit at the Seattle Center runs March 3rd, 2001 through September 3rd, 2001. For ticket and other information, please visit www.TitanicSeattle.com.

Copal
Staff member, www.Back-to-Titanic.com

All images taken at Titanic Artifact Exhibit in Seattle. Photography by Copal, 2001






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