Published by Jeremy. Last Updated on November 22, 2023.
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When it comes to tragedies that are known the world over, the sinking of the Titanic is one of the most documented.
But the touring show, TITANIC: The Artifact Exhibition at the Carnegie Science Center, takes what you know about the Titanic and moves it one step forward. While this one does cover the building, sailing, and subsequent sinking of the ship, there is a human element in this one that ties the experience together.
A Robust History at TITANIC: The Artifact Exhibition
The touring Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition takes a rather holistic view of one of the world's most well-known tragedies.
The exhibit is broken up into several areas, focusing on the history of the ship's construction, what life on board was like, the collision with the iceberg, the subsequent sinking, and the expeditions to the ship's final resting place.
Along the way, each area puts a strong emphasis on the human element as well. Early on, you learn about people who designed the ship, those who worked aboard, and passengers of all classes- who they were, why they were on board, and, unfortunately, their fate after the accident.
Personally, I found this part to be the most fascinating because it went well beyond simply identifying a handful of rich and famous passengers you hear about time and time again. Yes, a few are mentioned at this exhibit (first class is covered just as much as second and third), but the doctor traveling second class, the family coming to America for new opportunities, and some others whose fate was sealed because they were unfortunately bumped from passage on another ship are all highlighted as well.
It hits home way more than documentaries, shows, and movies here.
Within each themed area of the exhibit, a number of artifacts and recreated pieces are present as well, and, while not a robust collection by any stretch, are used to highlight the story that is being told and does the job nicely.
In the areas focusing on life on board, for example, recreations of rooms are present alongside historical photos. Signs then go into details of things like costs, food menus for the different classes, and more. Suffice it to say, when you see the adjusted-for-inflation cost for first-class passage, you will be floored, and perhaps doubly so when you read that second class was of a quality expected in first on other ships of the time.
This also extends to the third class area, and you get a glimpse of what passengers ate, the limitations in bathing facilities (which were apparently accepted as daily baths were not as popular as they are now), and more. Although it was not bare bones by any stretch of the imagination, it was about as close as you can get for being on a luxury cruiser- signs even indicate that 3rd class was necessary to be profitable, presenting an interesting conundrum next to just how expensive first-class tickets were.
The salvage expedition area perhaps showcases the most sobering human element of the entire show, as many artifacts on display that were found in the wreckage were traced back to their original owners. Some survived. Others did not. A bit unsettling? Yes. But this also is a detailed part of the story other narratives overlook.
So while I would say that TITANIC: The Artifact Exhibition does a great job at taking a holistic view of the tragedy that was the Titanic's sinking, it also hits home at the sheer loss of life that was involved with details like these. You're not going to leave this one in a good mood, but you certainly will have a broader appreciation for just how much this one impacted those involved, from shipbuilders to passengers and beyond.
TITANIC: The Artifact Exhibition is on display at the Carnegie Science Center until April 15, 2024. A separate ticket with timed entry is required for this show. Members receive discounted admission. Although we are members of the Carnegie Museums, we received complimentary admission and permission to take photos for this review. As always, all opinions are our own.
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