Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Titanic Artefacts Exhibition, O2 Bubble

On Tuesday Emma (@squiggle7) and I went to the Titanic Artefacts Exhibition at the O2 Bubble in what used to be known as London's Millennium Dome. Next year will see the 100th anniversary of arguably the world's most famous disaster, and the official salvor-in-possession, RMS Titanic, Inc., has put together this exhibition to showcase its findings and commemorate the tragic event.

I was impressed before we'd even got through the door, as upon handing over our tickets (you are given a half-hour entry window when you book them) we were supplied with a boarding pass in the name of an actual Titanic passenger (mine was that of Mr George Dunton Widener, returning from a European trip with his wife, son and two servants, and travelling first class).

I loved this idea: it introduced a personal aspect to the experience that may otherwise have been difficult to achieve. At the end of the exhibition there was a list of all 2,228 passengers and crew separated by travelling class and whether they survived or perished in the accident*.

Modelling contemporary dress on the Grand Staircase
Just before we entered the exhibition we had our photo taken in front of a green screen. In the inevitable giftshop at the end, an image of us standing on the Grand Staircase was available to purchase for the ludicrous price of £8. We declined!

The exhibition itself was very well laid out: it was spacious and separated into a number of sections that allowed you to progress chronologically from the Titanic's conception in 1907, through its design and construction (which began in 1909), its launch and fitting in 1911, its departure from Belfast and its maiden and final voyage in 1912, and the wreckage's rediscovery and gradual research and salvage from 1985 onwards.

Each room was equipped with large wall plaques providing narrative and illustrated with reproductions of areas of the ship, punctuated with many and varied artefacts retrieved from their resting places on the North Atlantic sea bed since the Titanic's rediscovery. There are regular snippets of personal stories from some of the passengers and crew, many accompanying personal belongings surprisingly well preserved after decades lying alone on the sea floor.

The penultimate two rooms are easily the most poignant, with the first detailing the sinking of the ship including written accounts from survivors, cgi reproductions of the actual event using data gathered from expeditions and even a reproduction iceberg made of actual ice. The second contains the previously mentioned passenger and crew list, which goes a long way towards illustrating the disparity between the numbers of people Who survived and of those who lost their lives.

The final room showcases the technology used and the achievements made since 1985 with regards to investigating the wreck of the Titanic and salvaging some of its contents and debris, and the leads you into the gift shop. The gift shop has long been one of my favourite places at any event, and this one had plenty of innovative options to keep myself, if not my wallet, happy.

I would recommend this exhibition to anybody with even a passing interest in contemporary history, the tragedy specifically, or science and technology during one of the most prolific periods of Britain's recent past. If you're planning on going, however, you'd better get your skates on: the exhibition's only open until September 29th, 2011!

* George Widener, his son Harry and Their servant Edwin Keeping died in the sinking. Eleanor Widener and their servant Amalie Gieger survived.