Exhibit is 'powerful' look at the Titanic tragedy


Over the next two weeks, Mark Lach will make sure a cherub that once adorned the doomed ship Titanic is displayed just right in a grand staircase that soon will grace the Maryland Science Center's exhibit floor.

He'll be certain to showcase a door that once hung on the ship's D-deck through which only first-class passengers had been permitted and a child's marble, which was found decades later on the cold, ocean floor.

Those who attend Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition, when it comes to the Maryland Science Center next month will also be able to visit a memorial room to see a list of which of the 2,228 passengers perished after the vessel hit an iceberg in the Atlantic on April 15, 1912. Visitors will also be able to touch a wall of ice to experience how cold it was for survivors of the sinking ship.

"So many people have walked through the exhibit and connected to it in a way that only a museum can create by bringing history to life," said Lach, designer of the exhibit, which opens Feb. 12 in Baltimore.

"It's a story of people divided into classes, who had so much hope and optimism in their lives at the time," Lach said. "For all of that to end so quickly and so tragically was such a powerful event for people. I think that's why people still connect to it on such a strong level."

It doesn't hurt that megastars Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet portrayed doomed lovers aboard the supposedly "unsinkable" ship in a blockbuster 1997 movie.

The Titanic exhibit, which was most recently on display in Omaha, Neb., will be here through Labor Day. Two other similar Titanic exhibits are also making their way around the world. All belong to RMS Titanic Inc., which was granted rights to the shipwreck by a federal court in 1994 and in 1996.

Since 1987, RMS Titanic has led seven research and recovery expeditions of the wreckage site off the coast of Newfoundland.

Over the years, the company has recovered scores of serving pieces bearing the White Star Line insignia. In addition, RMS Titanic salvaged coins, tool parts, rings and pendants made from sapphires and diamonds, musical instruments, medicine and perfume bottles, and clothing.

Some critics believe artifacts should not be removed from the underwater gravesite. But Lach, who has visited the wreckage, said, "We do it in a way that brings dignity and honor to the story. To share these objects with other people is really important."

RMS Titanic officials claim that more than 15 million people in 40 cities worldwide have visited the exhibits.

In Baltimore, the science center will emphasize local connections to the tragedy by showcasing objects like the Bromo Seltzer bottle and Maryland Club Rye bookmark found inside a blank book found at the site, said Christopher Cropper, senior director of marketing at the science center.

Also on display will be several reprinted newspaper pages from the period and the famous book A Night to Remember by Walter Lord, a Gilman School graduate.

"When you enter, you'll get a boarding pass with a person's name on it and a little bit of their history on it," Cropper said. "At the end of the exhibit, you'll find out if they survived or not by looking for their name in the memorial room. It's a very powerful thing."

Admission to the Titanic exhibit will cost $19.50 for adults and $13.50 for children. For more information, visit www.mary landscience center.org or call the 24-hour information line at 410-685-5225.

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