Since I started blogging for The Indiana Insider blog, I’ve gotten to go, see and experience a lot of fun and fascinating things. By far, one of my favorite things was my recent visit to “Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition” at the Indiana State Museum, which opened to the public today, Saturday, September 25 and runs through January 16, 2011.
I had the chance to preview the exhibit earlier this week and the experience hasn’t left me yet. I think a museum exhibit is successful when it leaves you wanting to learn more and that’s exactly how I feel about Titanic at the State Museum.
Upon arrival, visitors given a boarding pass, assigning them the identity of one of the passengers who was aboard Titanic. I was Mrs. James Joseph (Margaret Tobin) Brown from Denver, Colorado. If I were a better student of history, I would have recognized the name as the unsinkable Molly Brown and would have known from the outset that I survived the disaster at sea.
The exhibit is divided into five galleries:
The Construction Gallery tells that Titanic was actually one of three mega-ships built for the White Star Line by Harland & Wolff shipbuilders. It was considered practically unsinkable because of its 15 watertight compartments in the belly of the ship. The Construction Gallery also includes information on the ship’s captain, Edward Smith, who delayed his retirement so he could man Titanic’s maiden voyage.
From the Construction Gallery, visitors move into the Passenger Gallery which includes re-creations of first class and third class passenger rooms, as well as numerous personal artifacts found on the ocean floor at the Titanic wreck site. Anything displayed in a case is the real deal, having been resurrected from the wreck site and restored.
Leaving the third class room, the mood of the exhibit begins to change. The walls are black, the sound of the engines is heard around as the exhibit introduces you to the too late sighting of the iceberg that was to be Titanic’s demise. It’s almost unthinkable that the ship’s crew ignored several warnings about ice that were issued by other ships earlier in the day.
The Iceberg Gallery includes a large white 2-D iceberg that, quite frankly, looks a little cheesy — it’s not big enough to give visitors a sense of the mammoth size of an actual iceberg. What the “iceberg” lacks in size, it makes up for by being a touchable element that offers a perspective on just how cold the iceberg and the waters surrounding it likely were. Take your time in the Iceberg Gallery. There is much to read about the crew and passenger responses to the collision with the iceberg.
Sharing space with the Iceberg Gallery is the Recovery/Conservation Gallery, which offers an explanation of the science of how the artifacts from Titanic are being recovered and preserved. Three artifacts recovered from the ocean floor are displayed along with actual photos of how they looked at the bottom of the sea.
The final gallery is the Memorial Gallery. Here, you can look up the name on your boarding pass to learn whether or not you lived or perished. This gallery also shows several personal effects found among the wreckage, including clothing, letters, and a bowler hat that really helped connect me to the fact that real people died in this tragedy. Some gentleman wore this hat. I was left wondering whether he was one of those on the rescue boats or one who met his death of hypothermia from the freezing waters of the Atlantic.
The Memorial Gallery also offers some Indiana ties to the ill-fated ship, as well as some information on what Indiana was like in 1912.
Tips for your visit to “Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition”
- Plan ahead. Tickets to the exhibition are timed; you must purchase a ticket for a specific time of day. Online ticket purchases are available here.
- Bring a decent camera. The lighting is somewhat low in most of the galleries and the artifacts are displayed in plexiglass cases, both of which meant that my trusty iPhone camera was not up to the job of getting good photos.
- Bring a sweater. If you’re the type to get chilled easily, you’ll want to have something with you to warm up in the Iceberg Gallery.
- Take your time. There is so much to read, so many stories to be told. It took me almost an hour to view the entire exhibit.
Tickets to the Titanic exhibition at the Indiana State Museum are $17 for adults, $16.50 for seniors (65+) and $14 for children 12 and under. Museum admission is included in the ticket price and discounted prices are also available to groups. Ticket prices for museum members are $10. Exhibition hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The museum is closed on Mondays.