Review of Titanic - The Artifact Exhibition

17 October 2011

A rave review from our taxi driver made us go see this exhibition, and I'm so pleased we did: it was one of the highlights of the trip. A strange thing to say, maybe, but 'Titanic' is one of the best put-together, most emotionally engaging exhibitions I have ever been to.

Titanic was deemed "practically unsinkable" by the White Star Line and its builders. However, in April 1912, the luxury liner hit an iceberg and sank into the North Atlantic. Since then, many items from the wreckage have been recovered and added to Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition.

Your exhibition ticket is actually a boarding card from a passenger who actually travelled on the Titanic on its fateful maiden voyage. You're asked to check at the end of the show to see if you survived or not - something which sets a human tone right from the start. The soundtrack throughout is also beautifully used - turn of the century music, much as the passengers would have heard as they set off for New York, really helping to set the scene.

There are pictures of some of the passengers throughout, with stories of why they were on the ship, and what they were travelling on to. There are stories of everyday lives, hope for a better future, and of course the overwhelming knowledge of what they were going to face before they reached their destination. It's incredibly poignant. The fact that a coal strike put many other ships out of action, forcing many on to Titanic adds to the poignancy.

There are numerous items from the Titanic on display recovered from two and one half miles below the surface of the North Atlantic, including luggage, the ship's whistles, floor tiles from the first-class smoking room, a window frame from the Verandah Cafe and an unopened bottle of champagne with a 1900 vintage. There are also smaller, more personal artifacts, often attached to individual passenger names - from grand jewellery through to pencils, crockery to perfume samples which, incredibly, can still be smelled via the Perspex showcase. The tragedy become very personal because of this, and really add to the power of the show.

In addition, corridors become recreations of the Titanic below decks, with visitors walking through authentically re-created first- and third-class rooms, with furnishings by original manufacturers. In addition, the exhibit features a huge piece of Titanic's hull, a full-scale re-creation of the Grand Staircase as well as a newly expanded outer Promenade Deck, complete with the frigid temperatures felt on that fateful April night. It's incredibly effective.

There is an on-screen recreation of the ship's sinking, with some incredibly emotional words from some of the survivors. You can then touch an 'iceberg' to fully appreciate the temperatures those thrown into the sea experienced. It will send shivers down your spine for more than one reason. Then move onto footage from the submarine expedition to map the wreckage of the Titanic, before viewing the sobering lists of survivors and dead from each of the classes - first, second, third and crew.

I can't urge you strongly enough to visit Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition at Luxor Hotel and Casino. Just take a cardigan and some tissues - you'll need them.

 




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