Aug 22, 2007

Visiting the Titanic Exhibit

On Saturday, Angela and I went to see the Titanic exhibit at the Visual Arts Center. It was pretty neat. The exhibit was put on by the company RMS Titanic, Inc. and they had artifacts on display that have been brought up from the actual wreck site.

When you first enter the exhibit, each person is given a "boarding pass" that corresponds to an actual person that was aboard the ship. The card tells about the person, who they were travelling with, and the reason for their voyage. My person was Sir Cosmo Edmund Duff-Gordon. He was travelling with his wife, Lady Lucy Christiana Duff-Gordon, the fashion designer, and Laura M. Francatelli, his wife's secretary. They were all first-class passengers. Cosmo was a proficient fencer, and represented Great Britain at the 1908 Olympics. Lady Duff-Gordon had urgent business in New York, and Cosmo chose to accompany her on this trip.

Angela's person was Mrs. Benjamin Peacock (Edith Nile). She was travelling with her daughter, Treasteall, and her son, Alfred. They were third-class passengers. Her husband was already in New Jersey, working as a mechanical engineer. Edith had been ill at the time of his voyage, so she and the family stayed behind until she felt better - booking passage aboard the Titanic.

The whole exhibit told the story of Titanic, and after you learn about the conception and building of the ship and the first few days of the voyage, you walk down a flight of stairs to the underwater portion of the exhibit. Here they discuss the recovery of the artifacts from beneath 2 miles of water.

For us, though, the most interesting thing about the exhibit were the individual stories that were told. Each artifact belonged to a certain person, and they had gave a description of how and why that particular person happened to be aboard ship. They also had several plaques on the walls that described different people and their individual stories.

Towards the end of the exhibit, they give a list of every passenger, by class, and every crew member and whether or not that person made it through the voyage. Sadly, Angela's person and her two children were lost. My person, Sir Cosmo (and his party), did make it through the voyage...though there was some scandal surrounding the event. He was in Lifeboat #1, which was later referred to as "the money boat". The lifeboat was only about half full, and Sir Cosmo gave the crew members £5 notes to cover their lost gear. Some people later said it was to keep the crew from returning to the ship and attempting to rescue more passengers, who might have swamped the boat. Laura Francatelli (secretary to Lady Duff-Gordon) denies this, stating in her own account that "going back was never discussed." Either way, Sir Cosmo never escaped the shame that followed him everywhere he went.

Incidentally, Laura Francatelli's life jacket (autographed by her and other survivors) sold at an auction in London in May 2007 for £60,000 ($119,000).

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