Titanic Exhibits Located in Many Tour Destinations

RMS Titanic departing Southampton on 10 April 1912Credit: F.G.O. StuartTreasure hunters have pulled thousands of artifacts from the watery grave of the RMS Titanic since it’s discovery in 1985. Salvagers funneled most of these artifacts into the 200 or more Titanic Museums around the world.

I live near one of these museums, in Branson Missouri. The brochure for which makes the entire thing seem less than respectful. (Stick your hand in a tub of water so that you can feel how cold the Atlantic was that night! Touch the frozen surface of an iceberg! Rent the Titanic ballroom for your next Teddy Bear Tea party!)

But in 2011, I was in Vegas with my husband while he attended a Microsoft convention. While he learned about programming, I had a few days to waste. After shopping, visiting the talking statues in Cesar’s Palace and taking a gondola ride around the Venetian, I was left to choose between visiting a Titanic exhibit, or one called “Bodies,” which was an exhibit made with real cadavers. Titanic sounded almost upbeat compared to Bodies.

Premier Exhibitions operates the Las Vegas display (they also run the Bodies exhibition). The company has held salvaging rights to the Titanic since 1994 through it’s subsidiary company RMS Titanic Inc. Premier has over 5,500 artifacts in it’s multiple traveling exhibits.

The exhibit begins with each visitor being issued a boarding pass souvenir. The back of each pass contains the name and information of a passenger from Titanic's maiden and only voyage.  This helps connect visitors to the sinking in a personal way by linking each visitor to a passenger on the trip. At the end of the exhibit, each visitor can look for the name of the passenger on their boarding pass to find out if they lived or died.

The exhibit then takes visitors through the process of watching the ship being built and then walks them through the process of boarding. Visitors tour a replica steerage cabin, a first class stateroom and the grand staircase. This part of the trip is interesting from a historical perspective, since the Harland and Wolff Heavy Industries built the Titanic for the White Star Shipping Line during the rise of the industrial age. The ship is an icon of all that was gleaming and good in that age. When the museum calls the sinking an end of an era and the end of a dream, they refer to the fact that the sinking was one of the things that helped to shatter Victorian Society’s belief in the absolute infallibility of the machine era.

Once visitors have a feel for the industrial majesty of the Titanic, the museum moves into the sinking. At this point, I checked my smart phone for the date. Then I realized that I unknowingly visited the museum on April 14, the 99th anniversary of the sinking. I was a little surprised that the museum let the day pass in a ‘business as usual’ way. But perhaps they are saving fanfare for next year’s 100th anniversary.

The museum takes visitors through a replica of the promenade deck at night, complete with the sounds of waves crashing on the sides of a boat and cooler temperatures in the air. Then visitors step inside the ship, into a room filled with a large ice wall meant to resemble an iceberg and a Discovery Channel computer recreation of the ship sinking.

The museum that I visited at the Luxor in Vegas also had a metal recreation of the front section of the ship as it looked in 1985 on the ocean floor as well as large piece of the hull plate taken from the ocean floor and identified as an exterior wall from two first class state rooms.

Finally, visitors walk into a room of personal belongings that salvagers pulled from the depths of the ocean, including post cards, travel documents, jewelry and a wall that lists the passengers divided by class as well as whether they lived or died.

Premier Exhibitions does not operate all of the estimated 200 exhibits worldwide. The Titanic Historical Society operates a museum in Indian Orchard, Massachusetts and the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic operates an exhibit in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. A museum is also being built in Belfast near the shipyard where Harland and Wolff Heavy Industries constructed the Titanic. Other notable permanent exhibits are in Branson Missouri, Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, Orlando Florida and on the Strip in Las Vegas.