Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Titanic Exhibition at the Metreon

I couldn't really tell what the Titanic Exhibition at the Metreon was going to be like, but I decided to take a chance on it. It's not cheap. I paid $27, which was $22 for admission plus $5 for the audio tour. I would say that the experience, while unusual, is overpriced.

For history buffs & the curious, the real attractions of the show are the hundreds of objects retrieved from the wreck. These range from small personal effects like jewelry & toothpaste jars to a huge wall-sized portion of the hull. It's stunning to discover such fragile items as clothing, wallets, paper money & letters survived underwater all that time. Many of the objects are quite eerie to contemplate: A pair of wired-framed glasses; a pocket watch with the face obliterated; a letter from a mother, carried on board by her son; a corked bottle of champagne which appears to have the original liquid still in it.

The goal of the exhibition is entertainment rather than instruction. Besides the artifacts, there are several life-size walk-through recreations of the interior of the ship. These are like little stage sets, with sound effects & music. We walk through a hallway & view recreations of a dining room, a 1st class stateroom, a 3rd class stateroom & the grand staircase.

As you enter the exhibit, a staff person hands you a boarding card which describes a passenger on board the Titanic. At the end of the exhibition is a wall listing the names of all the passengers, which survived & which perished. You can find out the fate of your passenger.

Naturally, the last room of the exhibit is a small crowded gift shop. The day I went they had a sign announcing that the author of a book about the Titanic was on hand to sign copies of his book. Sure enough, he was there behind a counter at the gift shop, looking like he might possibly be there most days. I didn't see him make any sales, though.

The oddest trinkets on sale in the gift show were crumb-sized pieces of coal from the Titanic, packaged in small vials as jewelry or in a plain plastic bag in a box. I think they were priced from 6 to 16 dollars. According to the exhibition documentation, 1 pound of coal supplied energy to move the ship at full speed for 1 foot.

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