Taking Teens To The Titanic Artifact Exhibition
We had the opportunity to see the traveling Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition when Premier Exhibitions brought it to St. Petersburg, Florida. It’s traveling the country and also making stops outside the U.S. if you missed it, visitors to Orlando can check out the bigger, more permanant Titanic: The Experience; both are being mounted .
My teens and I visited the St. Petersburg show at The Mahaffey. We weren’t sure what to expect given how much has been said and shown about this infamous ocean liner. But the emotional impact of the exhibit was surprising.
Get Your White Star Boarding Pass
As you enter, you receive a “boarding pass” with the name of one of the passengers. And of course you’re well aware that your passenger’s voyage will end in one of two ways; they will either survive or perish. Receiving that boarding pass was powerful. Mine belonged to 31-year-old mother of an eight-month-old baby. She had tuberculosis and she and her husband and child were moving to a better climate. Would she survive? Would the baby? What about the husband? All this was at the forefront of my mind as I walked through the exhibit.
Some of the other “passengers” in my group were very well-to-do. Some were third class. The average cost for a first-class ticket was more than $2,500. ($57,200. today), so it’s not surprising that there were only 329 first-class passengers. Some 285 people enjoyed second-class cabins while 710 passengers traveled third-class. While the first-class passengers had much better rooms and didn’t have to share with strangers, even third-class passengers had bunks that were nicer than I expected. But I was shocked to read that all 710 third-class passengers shared two bathtubs!
You couldn’t help but wonder about the four days of sailing before the disaster. Until the ship hit the ice burg, it was quite a vacation! If you were a child in first-class, you could ride a mechanical horse or camel in the gymnasium or use a stationary bike or rowing machine. In fact, the gym was reserved for children for two hours every day. Children could also attend concerts in the evening or visit the ship’s library. First-class adults could swim in the pool for an extra fee: 25 cents! (Deck chairs could be rented for $1 per day).
A Fresh Take on The Titanic Story
As we browsed the exhibit, we were amazed at how well most of the artifacts had aged. There was a somber feeling in the air as we viewed pieces that had either belonged to someone who had boarded the ship, or were used by the passengers on their “vacation.” Seeing these possessions was a memorable experience, and one that I highly recommend. Yes, I’ve seen the movie and read about the Titanic. But following the stories of individual passengers made it all come alive for me in a fresh way.
One very well known, very wealthy woman was about to board a lifeboat, but turned back, saying she would not go without her husband. She stayed on the ship and they died together—heartbreaking!
Towards the end of the exhibit, you will be able to see and touch an actual iceberg. It made me understand how cold it actually was as the ship went down. Most of those who perished died of hypothermia.
You will also see a wall with names of the passengers and crew. This is where you will look for the name of the person whose boarding pass you received and learn their fate. I’m not going to give mine away; just keep in mind that most of the people in steerage didn’t face happy endings.
Tips for Visiting:
• You can see live reenactments of life on the Titanic on certain days. We didn’t know this and missed the show, but I’ve heard from others that it’s worth scheduling your visit to see these performances.
• I wouldn’t bring young children to this. The very small kids who were there when we visited clearly weren’t able to appreciate what they were seeing and were a distracting for others.
• For kids old enough to understand history there are wonderful learning materials available for free. Visit the RMS Titanic website to access lessons for students from elementary through high school.
• At the very end of the exhibit, you can have your photo taken on the bow, a la Leonardo and Kate. You can also have it taken in front of a green screen where they will later put the grand staircase behind you. That’s what we did. If you look closely, you can see the ghost of the captain standing behind us to the right.
Kelly Stilwell is a freelance writer and blogger who loves living in Florida with her husband and two teenagers. Visit her website, Virtually Yours for more stories and advice on traveling with teens or follow her on Twitter.