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Archive for July, 2012
24 Jul

Headline: Titanic Exhibit Sank!

A couple of weekends ago we went to the Henry Ford Museum to see the Titanic exhibition which featured stories and artifacts from the doomed ship. I was quite excited because we have some (very) minor family history with Titanic. The story goes that my grandfather, who was emigrating to America, was offered a ticket on the Titanic. This ship left earlier than the one he was already booked and I believe he was going to do some work on the ship as well. He ended up declining the ticket, yet his friend decided to go ahead and went on the Titanic. Of course, as a 3rd class male passenger, the guy didn’t survive. However, my grandfather made safe passage on Titanic’s sister ship, the Olympia, a few weeks later. It is odd to think about because that one decision is the reason our family exists. Had he gone on the Titanic, we would most likely not be here. Life is strange.

So we got our tickets and stood in line for our time slot. They give you a “boarding pass” that has the name of a Titanic passenger along with some history about the person, which I found interesting. Once we got in, the disappointment started immediately. First thing while you start to file into the first room is they have a bow of a ship by a green screen and you can go up and get your picture taken – people usually do something corny like the Kate/Leonardo pose in the movie “Titanic.” Of course, it costs you money. Nice commercialism on a disaster exhibition. It was kind of downhill from there. It was basically room after room of artifacts from the ship (which were very interesting) and there were some plaques on the wall describing some passengers, or how the ship was built, or about some areas of the ship. Overall, there was very little rhyme or reason to the layout or to any theme. The flow was awful. People were following kind of an imaginary trail, but then there were things in the middle of the room and elsewhere, so a line didn’t make sense. It was chaotic. There were even things that were just plain, well, stupid. Like in the darkened room where you are supposed to “experience” the night of the sinking, there was a big chunk of ice that people could touch. Why? I think we all know what ice is.

I’m not sure what I expected, but I had thought there would be a specific theme and a story along the way where you can see the artifacts and somehow try to experience or put yourself there. I really wanted a moving experience but all I really got was a barely moving line. At the end there is a large wall with all of the crew and passengers names listed by class. Here is where you are to look at the person on your boarding pass and check for their name on the wall to see if they were a survivor or not. The concept of this was quite interesting, but there was no follow through within the exhibit. Some of the best parts of the exhibit were recovered artifacts that specifically belonged to a passenger. Some were really amazing that they survived – even paper items. Shoes and clothes were quite chilling as were personal objects like combs or jewelry. Or even corked bottles of liquor or perfume that still contained the original liquid. Had they set it up where artifacts from the person on your boarding pass were present along with a story about them along the way – even where they might have been on the ship during the voyage with artifacts from those rooms – something to really connect you with the ship, it might have been a terrific experience. Instead, it ended up like most any other museum exhibit where you look at stuff and move on. Highly disappointing.

And to top it off, there were tons of kids there. Why? Most of them have no clue what this was or is and from what I could tell they have never even see the movie. Kids were running around, yelling, making fun of things and being overall pains in the ass. It was disrespectful and made everything worse. For the most part, I don’t blame the kids, I blame the parents. Most parents were not even explaining anything to the kids or interacting with them at all throughout. As far as the kids cared, they were dragged there and were killing time waiting to get out. The worst of the worst is when you go to the final board to see the names of all the passengers. Kids were running around and screaming “mine’s dead! Mine’s dead!” Meanwhile, the parents were doing nothing and discussing what they were going to do for dinner. Lovely. So glad you came.

Overall, it was the worst exhibit of this type I’ve ever been in – and most disappointing because I really wanted such a great experience and to really be respectful and in awe of the people who did and did not survive that awful, historical night. Instead, I got a tossed together, commercialized exhibit attended by a bunch of uninterested and rude people. Oh, I think I forgot to mention there is another pay photo op on the grand staircase replica and a whole gift shop where you can buy everything from a Titanic bottle opener to replica china sets! Ah the commercialism of a disaster. How sad. Can’t wait to get to New York and buy a 9/11 shot glass! Pah-thet-ick.

Afterwards we toured around the Henry Ford. I had not been there since I was a kid and it was far, far more interesting than the Titanic exhibit. The cars were really incredible and I actually learned quite a bit along the way. I’d go back again too – just as long as the Titanic exhibit has moved on to it’s next unfortunate destination.

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