Titanic artifacts at SC State Museum bring to life a fateful day

05/03/2012 12:00 AM

05/03/2012 10:59 AM

A century later, the menus still tell a compelling story. The dishes prime an emotional response. A perfume vial brings the disaster that was the Titanic to the personal level.

Those emotions are the reasons people still flock to exhibitions of artifacts related to the sinking of the largest ship on the oceans on April 15, 1912.

RMS Titanic Inc., which owns salvage rights to the ship, has put together multiple traveling museum exhibitions focusing on artifacts pulled from the ocean’s floor.

One of those exhibits is pulling into the S.C. State Museum just a month after the centennial of the sinking. Add in the recent 3D release of the award-winning 1997 movie “Titanic,” and the timing couldn’t be better for Titanic: The Artifact Exhibit to come to the museum. It opens Saturday and runs through Sept. 3.

Over the past 18 years, more than 25 million people have visited the various RMS Titanic exhibits, “and 2012 will be a very exciting and poignant year,” said Theresa Nelson, spokeswoman for RMS Titanic. “The release of ‘Titanic 3D’ certainly piqued interest, and with the centennial events, there’s been a real influx of interest.”

The story is well-chronicled: The massive ship, pride of the White Star shipping line, sank after colliding with an iceberg, claiming more than 1,500 lives.

The incredible popularity of the 1997 movie prompted many Titanic displays built around historical memorabilia. But RMS Titanic exhibitions are the only ones with artifacts from the ship salvage efforts, which began in 1987, two years after a team led by Robert Ballard and Jean Louis Michel discovered the location of the wreck.

Visitors to the exhibit will receive a replica boarding pass before beginning their excursions, which begin with information on the construction of the ship. Then the story of life on board the ship is told by the personal items used by the crew and passengers.

Food was an important component of the luxury liner. In addition to dishes and silverware, the display features menus from first-class, second-class and third-class dining rooms. First-class passengers got filet mignon and chocolate eclairs. Third-class got roast pork and plum pudding.

The most compelling artifacts, however, are “the tiny, delicate items,” Nelson said. “It’s hard to look at something as personal as a hair brush or a necklace and not wonder about the people.”

The exhibit goes on to detail the circumstances around the sinking and the rescue of the passengers who managed to find spots in the limited number of lifeboats. Another section of the exhibit focuses on the modern salvage effort.

The trip ends in the “Memorial Gallery,” where visitors can check the name on their boarding pass with the names of those who perished in the disaster.

Read pages from The State as the tragedy unfolded

Fullscreen, download and other options are available at the bottom of each page below.

April 15, 1912 - Queen of the ocean may be sinking

April 16, 1912 - Mammoth steamship goes down with eleven hundred souls

April 17, 1912 - Remains not slightest hope for thirteen hundred lives

April 18, 1912 - Roll of the rescued seems complete at 868

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