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Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition


Story: Jack Foley

THE story of The Titanic is an enduring one.

The ship may lie rusting at the bottom of the sea, but its tragedy has seldom seemed so alive - thanks to movies such as James Cameron's Oscar-winning Titanic, and his documentary, Ghosts of the Abyss.

In years to come, however, the wreck may disappear altogether, and the reality of this famous ocean liner could be lost to myth and legend.

In a bid to preserve its story, Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition, at the Science Museum in London until October 19, takes visitors on a chronological journey from the ship's design and construction to its eventual discovery and salvage.

Visitors can see over 200 authentic artifacts recovered from the wreck's surrounding debris field, including a 3-ton section of the hull and the original ship's bell, which was rung too late to warn of the iceberg that ripped the hull like a can opener.

There are also dozens of personal possessions, including clothes, jewellery and documents, once owned by the ship's 2,228 passengers.

All of the artifacts have been recovered from the 2.5 mile-deep grave of the ship, by RMS Titanic Inc, the commercial firm that has mounted six dives to the wreck, most recently in 2000, and recovered more than 6,000 artefacts.

The London exhibition is one of three touring shows created by the Texas-based Clear Channel Exhibitions, in association with the recovery firm.

It also enables visitors to experience life on board the ship, through recreations of the Titanic's rooms, intertwined with real stories of her passengers and crew.

Yet anyone thinking that the event is an ill-advised attempt to cash in on the popularity of the movie, while disgracing the memory of the thousands who lost their lives during the tragedy, would be mistaken, for the Science Museum has gone to painstaking lengths to ensure that the exhibition is not perceived as offensive.

Jon Tucker, head of the Science Museum, said that the show would be 'one of the most serious ever mounted by this museum', adding that: "The overwhelming response was that people were extremely interested in the subject, but only if it was dealt with in a serious way."

He was referring to the museum's decision to take the unusual step of consulting its visitors before agreeing to mount the exhibition - aware that putting the artifacts on show may be considered tantamount to grave-robbing.

The display further includes mock ups of the first-class interiors, and a real iceberg, as well as video of the sub diving to the wreck.

Visitors are given a ticket with a passenger's name and can check his or her fate before they leave.

Mark Lach, one of the designers of the exhibition, who has been a member of the dive teams, believes the exhibition has been done in a dignified and respectful way, which does not tarnish the memory of those who lost their lives.

The exhibition is a timed ticket event and charges will apply.

Advance booking is recommended to avoid disapointment.

Groups and school booking line: 020 7942 4777; Opening Times: Daily, 10am to 6pm; Prices: Adults £9.95, Concessions/Child/Student £6.95. Groups £8.25 per person for groups of 10+ booked in advance
Science Museum, Exhibition Road, London SW7 2DD.
To book in advance, call 0870 870 4848
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