Please note: this was a temporary exhibit and is no longer on view at the Rochester Museum and Science Center.

I have often wondered why the wreck of the Titanic, a monumental human disaster that happened almost 100 years ago, continues to fascinate the world.  The exhibit, “Titanic: The Artifact Exhibit” running now through January 18, 2010 at the Rochester Museum and Science Center helps us recognize that it is the universal nature of the tragedy that resonates.

As I step into the exhibit, I "become" Arthur H. Gee

The Titanic, a magnificent “floating hotel,” sets sail on its maiden voyage on April 10, 1912.  Heralded for its majesty, technology and speed, it is the flagship of the White Star Line.

On the evening of April 14th, an iceberg breaches the hull of the ship, compromising six compartments  and setting off a catastrophe of epic proportions that continues to haunt us today. Of the 2228 on board, only 705 survive.

This exhibit showcases diverse artifacts recovered and restored during  a series of seven expeditions that took place from 1987 through 2004 by RMS Titanic Inc.  It is fascinating how exhibit goers come to identify with the passengers.

Upon entering the exhibit, I am given a boarding pass and I “become” Arthur H. Gee, age 47.  I learn that I am traveling alone from Southampton to Mexico City to manage a factory for my British Employer.  As I prepared to depart on my trip, our family dog became agitated, jumping around my legs.  He even followed my car all the way to the train station, silly dog!

As I stroll the exhibit, viewing the schematic of the ship and seeing images of its creation, I begin to identify with certain objects, such as the black leather bag, the white cream pitcher and the top to a jar of Cherry toothpaste.  My first class menu is much more extensive and gourmet than the one for second or third class!  I relish how welcoming the smoking parlor is with its brass chandeliers and glass windows.  I “meet” fellow passengers such as silent film actress Dorothy Gibson, White Star Chairman Bruce Ismay and The Unsinkable Margaret “Molly” Brown.

I see the recreation of an opulent cabin similar to “mine,” and I’m thankful I’m not in third class where strangers sleep on bunks, with up to 10 to a room.  Thank goodness my employer was willing to pay $2500 (around $43,800 in 2010 dollars) for my transatlantic passage!

As I approach the end of the exhibit, I am disturbed to find my fellow’s name listed among the victims of that fateful night.  Although we were only briefly “acquainted,” I’m sad to  discover Arthur was not a survivor.  Other exhibit goers voice elation or sadness when they discover the fate of “their” passenger.

This is a very interesting and well-curated exhibit.  Although the topic is somber, it is engaging for older children and adults because history come to life  through the stories of individual passengers and the display of artifacts that were used on-board.  You can see “Titanic: The Artifact Exhibit” at the Rochester Museum and Science at 657 East Avenue, Rochester between now and January 18, 2010.

The General Admission Exhibition fee is $17 for adults, $15 for Seniors and college students, $14 for children age 3-18.  RMSC Members pay $5 admission.  The museum is open Monday–Saturday:  9am–5pm and Sunday:  11am–5pm.  During “Titanic: The Artifact Exhibit,” the museum will also be open Wednesdays and Thursdays from 9am- 9pm.

Please note: photos were not possible as photography is prohibited in this exhibit.

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