Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Titanic: The Artefact Exhibition

I've already confessed to a slightly unusual level of interest in the Titanic (again though, the boat not the film), so it's probably no surprise that I was quite keen to visit the exhibition currently showing at the 02. And it was a beautiful sunny day on Friday, so off we went to skulk in the dark...

Titanic: The Artefact Exhibition is exactly what it claims to be: an exhibition of over 300 things reclaimed from the wreck site, ranging from personal items that belonged to passengers and crew, to parts of the ship and fittings from the rooms. It's nicely set out, taking you through the building of the ship in an Irish dockyard, to the launch, the luxury of the first class staterooms and then a step-by-step account of the collision with the iceberg. There's also information on the discovery of the wreck and the practicalities of diving to such immense depths.

I enjoyed the exhibition, even though there wasn't a lot of new information. It did feel a little... clinical, though. I suspect this is partly a result of having designed it to make sure the venue and layout could cope with lots of people of different ages and abilities, and to make sure it would easily translate to whichever part of the globe they ship it to next. It must be a constant challenge for anyone putting on an exhibition; how do you make sure things in glass boxes retain some sort of context and story? It worked well when, for example, they had photos of the artefacts on the bottom of the sea, with the same item in the case next to it, but less well when it was just cases of crockery with name labels.

One very successful aspect is the boarding card you are given on entry with the name and details of a passenger who was on the ship. As you work your way through the exhibits, you've immediately got more of a personal connection -you can work what sort of room 'your' passenger would have slept in, which crockery they ate off. At the end, of course, you also get to find out whether or not you survived.

I'm pleased to announce that I did. (Being a woman with children probably helped... boyfriend was a third class Dutchman and, not surprisingly, didn't make it.)

The exhibition's on at the 02 Bubble until the 31st July, and tickets cost (a slightly eye-watering) £15 for adults at the weekend. There's a free cloakroom though!

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