After my preview of Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition at the Indiana State Museum in Indianapolis, I had a chance to sit down with Cheryl Mure, Vice President of Education for RMS. Titanic, Inc., the company granted rights to the wreck of Titanic by a U.S. Federal Court order, which has made seven research and recovery expeditions to the wreck site and recovered more than 5,500 objects. Two-hundred and fifty pieces are on display at the State Museum.
I asked Mure why the story of the Titanic has such lasting appeal — the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the great ship will be in 2012.
“Almost everyone knows something about the Titanic,” Mure said. “They come to the exhibit with a built in interest and there is something in the story for everyone. If you’re into social history, biographies, science or engineering, the story of the Titanic has something to share.”
Mure also believes that something in our recent past connects us to the tragedy at sea that occurred in 1912. “The sinking of Titanic was a global tragedy in its day. We have all felt that pain in the events of September 11, 2001,” explained Mure. She went on to say “In the Titanic tragedy, names of those who were lost were written on large chalkboards outside the White Star Line offices in New York City. Family members stood on the steps there, waiting for news of their loved ones. It was something similar to those families who put up flyers after 9/11, searching and waiting for any hopeful news.”
I asked Mure if there is a most common reaction to people who visit the exhibit. She said that everyone wants to know whether the passenger name they were given on their boarding passes lived or died. And whatever the outcome was, she said, stays with them.
As to whether or not she approves of the James Cameron Titanic feature film, starring Leondardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, Mure said, “I love it. I’ve watched over and over. Jack and Rose are fictitious characters, to be sure. But many of the people portrayed in the film were individuals who really were on Titanic.” She continued, “I love to look for the artifacts that they’ve copied. Things we’ve recovered that were replicated for the film.” With 5,500 items recovered, Mure”s got a lot to look out for!
Mure’s favorite artifacts of those on display at the Indiana State Museum include the first class china plate, a filigree hair barrette — found in a ladies traveling case along with some money, and a brown bowler hat.
The bowler hat was one of the items that most struck me as I toured the exhibit, as well. I wanted to know who was wearing the hat. Had he lived or died? I was intrigued at how small the hat seemed — that people were of much smaller build than we are today.
At the end of the exhibit, information is provided about Indiana in 1912 and two known passengers from the Hoosier state (both of whom happened to be professional gamblers!).
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.
Interesting Titanic facts:
- The cost of a first-class ticket to New York was $2,500 — approximately $57,200 in today’s currency.
- Up to 10 people resided in third-class rooms, which cost $40 ($900) today.
- There were only 2 bathtubs for the 700+ third-class passengers on board.
- Titanic was originally designed to hold 32 lifeboats, but the law only required 16 lifeboats. So before the maiden voyage, the number of lifeboats on board was reduced to 16 lifeboats and 4 additional collapsible boats to make more room on the first- and second-class decks.
- The last living Titanic survivor, Millvina Dean, died on May 31, 2009 at the age of 97.