It was a little eerie. Late on a recent afternoon, there was no one at the new “Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition” at Atlantic Station except two Atlanta Parent reporters and the security guards who make sure visitors behave themselves. Eerie because the exhibit is dark and somber, and because we’re at a special moment in history for paying homage to the roughly 1,520 lives that were so swiftly and tragically lost a century ago. On its maiden voyage crossing the Atlantic from Ireland to New York, the mighty “floating palace” that represented the greatest technology in its time, struck an iceberg. The flooded, broken ship sank in the early morning darkness on April 15, 1912.
Another Titanic exhibit visited Atlanta six years ago. For this encore, about half of the more than 200 items are on view for the first time, newly conserved from expeditions to the wreckage site discovered in 1985.
Period songs such as “Oh, You Beautiful Doll” (1911), help form a soundtrack for this “Titanic” show. Fittingly, the experience with enlarged wall photographs throughout begins with an overview of the ship’s design and construction, then moves into more personal territory. We even learn what second-class passengers ate on their last day on this voyage: tapioca, curried chicken and rice, spring lamb with mint sauce, coconut sandwiches, “American ice cream,” and on and on. Third-class passengers had fewer choices including soup, roast pork, boiled potatoes and oranges.
Glimpse everything here from passengers’ hairpins and shirt buttons to a perfume bottle. Here’s a rusted oval doorknob, and there’s a porthole. And here’s a first-class chocolate cup and saucer that has a string of brown stains inside it now – but almost looks as if they are chocolate remains not yet washed out. Here’s a lady’s tiny gold brooch, a dainty blue pitcher, some soiled “Steamboat” playing cards. A favorite with kids: the chance to touch a simulated iceberg that’s kept at 28 degrees. Also of intrigue: a metal-and-clay model of the bow of the ship in its current position at the bottom of the ocean.
The eerie feeling continues as you come across things such as a quote from first-class passenger Edith Russell that’s blown up on one wall: “My feeling was so strong that I would never reach America in that ship.” A visitor will learn many things, such as Titanic’s furnaces consumed 850 tons of coal per day, and that there was no moon on that fateful night, so icebergs were harder to see.
School groups of all ages are visiting this “Titanic,” for which no end date has been announced. For a family experience, plan on spending one-two hours here.
– Julie Bookman