The world’s worst maritime disaster is expected to become one of the biggest events in Iowa Science Center history. “Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition” opens today (Saturday) for the first time in Iowa and promises to draw a statewide audience during its three-month stay. John Zaller, the exhibition designer, says more than one-hundred items are going on display in Des Moines that were taken from the debris field of the wrecked ship at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.
Zaller says they’ve carefully selected certain artifacts from a collection of more than five-thousand items that will best tell the story of the Titanic in a chronological fashion. The ship, dubbed unsinkable and then the world’s largest ocean vessel, struck an iceberg in April of 1912 and sank in the North Atlantic. Of the 22-hundred passengers, only about 700 survived.
The exhibition items range from perfume bottles to white gloves and Zaller says there’s one artifact from the 94-year-old shipwreck that is very compelling — a gilded chandelier from the first-class smoking room. He says it’s impressive because the gilding is still on much of the chandelier but it’s also badly twisted from the wreck itself, “so you have at the same time this view of the gilded age but also you have a real, true witness to the destructive manner in which the ship went down.”
The exhibition includes authentically recreated cabins from first and third-class, in addition to place settings and menus from all three classes. Visitors will get a boarding pass as they enter, detailing the life of an actual Titanic passenger. At the end, visitors will learn if that passenger survived. Zaller says the recent opening of the disaster movie “Poseidon” will only help attract more people to the Titanic exhibition, which never seems to fade from memory.
Zaller says “That’s one thing about the Titanic story that’s so amazing, that it continues to live on in our consciousness. It’s not only the story of one great ocean liner but because of the cross-section of society, because of the real Greek tragedy element to the entire Titanic story, it’s a story that we can all relate to.”
During the exhibition, visitors are encouraged to touch a giant iceberg and imagine being immersed in the near-freezing water. The Science Center in Des Moines is also offering the IMAX movie “Titanica,” which opens today (Saturday). For more information, surf to “www.sciowa.org”.