It’s been over 100 years since RMS Titanic was lost off the coast of Newfoundland. By now, it is part of America’s group consciousness. When I heard that the Reagan Presidential Library had its own Titanic exhibit, I was mildly curious but didn’t expect to learn anything startling. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
1 Ballard’s Real Mission
There are three distinct areas to the exhibit, each with its own emphasis. The first is about Robert Ballard and his discovery of the wreck. His search for the Titanic was originally a cover story meant to obscure his real goal, the discovery of the lost nuclear submarines, USS Thresher and USS Scorpion.
I remember hearing about the loss of these ships in the 1960s. The Thresher was lost in 1963 and five years later the Scorpion also went missing. The Navy wanted to find the missing submarines and determine the state of their nuclear reactors.
2 Debris Fields
Ballard found the navy ships by following debris fields. He quickly realized that this same technique could be used to search for the Titanic. In the past, searches were focused on finding the wreck of the entire ship. With only a few days left on his Navy assignment, Ballard applied the debris field method and found the missing liner.
3 The Hull is Intact
With many shipwrecks, the integrity of the hull gives way and the entire thing crumbles to the seabed. The Titanic is different. It was so heavy and sinking at such a speed that when it hit the bottom, it wedged the prow into the ocean floor. This wedge is holding it together.
4 This ship facinates people
The exhibit contained no real artifacts from the Titanic The numerous paintings and models of her next on display bring the visitor into part two of the exhibit, which contained memorabilia, costumes, and sets from the 1997 film, Titanic. While I’ve never seen this movie, I admit that the sets did help to add a sense of reality to the exhibition.
In addition, I especially liked the lifeboat, which seems to be waiting alongside the ship. The eerie lighting made the floor seem like a rough ocean.
5 The story didn’t end on April 12, 1912
The exhibit concludes with actual artifacts from 1912. Here are newspapers with banner headlines proclaiming the disaster. In addition, one can read documents listing lost property and claims against the White Star Line. Most noteworthy are the photos of passengers and crew. Each contains a short summary of the person’s experience. Reading the stories about these people is the most gripping part of the exhibit. Whether rich or poor, those that survived didn’t just go on with their lives Many suffered great trauma and one woman didn’t speak for twenty years.
The Titanic Exhibit runs through January 7, 2018. I hope you get a chance to see it.
Please feel free to view my other Titanic images by clicking here.