Titantic exhibition: ‘A very real piece of history’ surfaces in Portland

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PORTLAND — Almost everyone knows something about the story of the RMS Titanic, many through James Cameron’s 1997 blockbuster film.

But a new attraction can give audiences something the movie cannot: a chance to see the real thing.

The Titanic was the largest ship in the world when it was built in the early 1900s. Although it was deemed unsinkable, during its maiden voyage on the Atlantic Ocean the ship struck an iceberg and ultimately ended up sinking to the bottom of the sea, where it remained untouched for more than seven decades.

Artifacts from the wreck of the Titanic are now available to be seen by the public at the latest exhibit by the Portland Science Center, “Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition.” The exhibit, which opened Saturday at 68 Commercial St., tells the story of the passengers, the crew and the ship.

Mark Lach, vice president of design and creative director for Premier Exhibitions, Inc. – the organization in charge of the worldwide traveling exhibit – said the artifacts represent a “very real piece of history.” The exhibition includes items such as dining room china, clothes, and pieces of the ship, as well as recreations of a first-class and a third-class cabin.

“These are things people have to see,” Lach said.

Joe Gold, president of The Gold Group, which owns and operates the Portland Science Center, said the exhibition will run for four to five months. Tickets are $19.50 for adults ages 13 and up; $17.50 for seniors ages 65 and older, members of the military and college students; $15.50 for ages 3–12; and free for children under the age of 3.

The Portland Science Center opened last September with the show “Body Worlds,” and has hosted several exhibits since. Gold said when a decision is made about which show to bring to the center, customers are first asked what they want to see.

“Titanic was overwhelmingly the number-one choice,” Gold said.

Gold said since the Portland Science Center opened, close to 100,000 visitors have come through the doors.

Upon entering the exhibit, attendees receive a boarding pass with the name and background of someone who actually traveled on the Titanic’s ill-fated voyage. At the end of the exhibit, there is a wall with all the names of those who traveled on the ship, both passengers and crew, and visitors can see if the person on their boarding pass survived.

Lach, who has been to the wreck of the Titanic, said the boarding pass was a way to have fun at the exhibit, but was also a way to connect with the exhibit more personally. He said the exhibit “speaks to the fragility of life.”

The nearly 900-foot-long ship carried more than 2,200 passengers, but only enough lifeboats for fewer than 1,200. Following the sinking in 1914, new regulations and protocols were created to improve maritime safety.

The Titanic’s resting place was discovered in 1985, and recovering artifacts began in 1987. More than 5,500 artifacts have been recovered since. RMS Titanic, Inc. was deemed the sole salvor of the wreck by a U.S. federal court in 1994, and has made eight expeditions to the wreck.

Lach and Gold said Portland was a very good city to host the Titanic exhibit, because it is a maritime city and not far from shipyards. But Gold said even though people may know the movie, they should still see the exhibit, as it is a chance to see in person things from the wreck. Lach also said the exhibit location is the closest the artifacts have physically been to the Titanic since they were pulled from the wreck site.

“You see incredible things (here),” Gold said.

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

The Portland Science Center on 68 Commercial St. recently launched its latest exhibit, “Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition.”Joe Gold, president of The Gold Group, which runs the Portland Science Center.

Mark Lach, vice president of design and creative director of Premier Exhibitions, Inc., which curates a nationwide Titanic exhibit.

The Titanic exhibit features recreations of this firts-class cabin as well as a third-class cabin that passengers would have stayed in during the ship’s ill-fated voyage.Artificants like these have been pulled from the wreck of the RMS Titanic, the famous ship once called unsinkable, that struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic Ocean and sank.The artifacts recovered from the wreck site tell the story of those who traveled on the ship, both passengers and crew members.

Artifacts recovered from the wreck and on display at the Portland Science Center range from silverware, clothes, china, personal items such as clothing, and parts of the ship.

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Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net.