Unsinkable: Titanic exhibit fascinates all ages
It’s the stuff of legends.
In 1912, the RMS Titanic— the largest, most opulent vessel in the White Star Line— set sail from England carrying more than 2000 people on course for New York City. The maiden voyage of this supposedly unsinkable ship that never reached port remains one of the most compelling stories in modern history.
The Science Museum of Virginia hosts a unique exhibit that reveals what is known of this sunken mystery and the human beings entangled in it. In “Titanic Science: The Real Artifacts, the True Stories,” visitors have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to view more than 100 objects recovered by the RMS Titanic Corporation (a salvage company) from the bottom of the North Atlantic where the historic ship went down 90 years ago.
Hair pins, buttons, fountain pens, a business card (the name “Samuel L. Kistler, M.D.” is still legible), a man’s black hound’s-tooth suit, a wooden clarinet with sheet music, gold-rimmed china, and crystal bowls are among the surprisingly intact collection of artifacts. Pieces of the actual ship are also on view, including some fractured rivets and bolts, a bronze drive wheel, and a porthole. Poster displays show period photographs and describe the human side of the vision, paradoxes, and dreams that sailed with the ship.
It’s all hands on deck with interactive displays throughout the exhibit that help shipmates of all ages understand relevant scientific concepts. Very young wayfarers will enjoy splashing in the waves as they experiment with buoyancy and test the stability of different ship designs. My older son, the pilot, especially enjoyed the challenge of playing Captain Smith at the wheel of a simulator trying to steer the massive ship safely around the iceberg. And my younger marine archeologist went back again and again to the Phantom 150e, the remote-operated underwater robot that was used to retrieve objects from the wreckage and videotape the scene.
But “Titanic Science” is only a part of the seafaring package. The Carpenter Science Theatre Company performs a one-person show, Unsinkable? Unthinkable!, in which a delightfully engaging albino crab in a white tux with red claws helps viewers imagine the human experience, the courage and the cowardice, the risks and the rationales, of the tragedy. And the IMAX documentary Titanica allows visitors to journey down to the ocean floor to view the actual wreckage as 89-year-old Eva Hart recalls her experience as one of only about 700 survivors.
Our family thought the journey to see this collection of Titanic science and stories was well worth the trip. Just plan on spending the whole day… there’s that much to see and do.
Titanic Science is on display at the Science Museum of Virginia through January 5. Unsinkable? Unthinkable! and Titanica run through December 31. For tickets and information call 800-659-1727. SMV is at 2500 W. Broad St., Richmond. www.smv.org.