Titanic: The Artefact Exhibition at the Museum of Victoria – Part 1

As I said yesterday, I am going to show you some photos from the exhibition I went to see at the Museum of Victoria last weekend. My friend had heard about it and we went to see it with high tea afterwards.

I took almost 100 photos, so from a suggestion I received I’m going to break it up into three parts and today is all about the First Class.

When we entered the exhibition we were all handed a boarding pass with the name of a passenger, what class they were and why they were travelling. As I will be doing more posts on this I will try and photograph it for you to see. I will reveal who my passenger was and whether they lived or died at the end.

I photographed a lot of the signs around the show as well. I like doing that so I can enjoy the parts that I can’t take with me.

I liked how they had set it up though I wish I had taken more photos in the first room, well taken any as I didn’t think of doing that until I saw this.

From then on I continued taking photos. It was really nice to see they had sort of done it according to many different parts of the ship. So there is a bit of first class, steerage, but sadly not a lot of second class. The second class seems to be part of the ship that is often forgotten about, sadly.

The artefacts were incredible. I loved seeing them. However, there is controversary about people visiting the shipwreck. So I thought I would give my views on it.

Should Titanic be left alone?

I know there are people out there who argue that Titanic should be left alone as it is a graveyard. I don’t agree, and I think it is great that we get to revisit the ship in a way.

I think my first thought is that the ship will disintegrate and one day won’t be there at all. It will just be a pile of stuff that was on the ship. It would be a shame to let that happen and I like seeing what was on the ship. To me, those artefacts tell the story of it. We can see what they used and what they ate with, what they took with them when they travelled. It is like a time capsule, it just happens to come with a very sad story.

I also wonder how there is a difference between bringing stuff up from that ship than there is with any other shipwreck salvages that happen around the world all the time. It happens constantly, but it seems because Titanic is the most famous we are not allowed to do it. We have done the same thing to the Pyramids and we dig up graves that are thousands of years old. Look at Pompeii, it was buried and slowly it was dug up. It is a way to understand our past.

Pompeii is a way to look at how people lived during that time. I think it is human nature that we are fascinated with our past and where we came from. The Pryramids have given the same sort of insight.

It is something that happens all the time, so why is the Titanic considered sacred and should be left?

I don’t understand it. I find it fascinating. I love watching footage of them exploring the wreck under the water. However, I have to wonder why it has this superstar status compared to other places. Perhaps it is because it happened in modern times. Perhaps it is because it was found and we have learned more about it and films have been made about it. I don’t know what makes the Titanic so much more special than any other disaster.

Why I like that they have gone down there and shown what they have found.

Let’s look at some other ships. So in the last 100 years around 24 full size ships have sunk. Besides the Titanic can you name any of them? Do you know why they sunk or do you know anything about the people that were on board? If you don’t know them, or only know a few, why?

On the coast of Victoria, that being mainly the Great Ocean Road, from the 1700’s onwards between 600 and 700 ships wrecked along the coast. It is called the Shipwreck coast for a good reason. Ask any Australians if they can name any of the ships or their passengers. For me I only know one, the Loch Ard and the two survivors were Tom and Eva. They named the gorge where they wrecked Loch Ard Gorge and their story is there everywhere. It was an incredible story of survival. However, I don’t know anything about any other ship that wrecked along there.

So my point here is that by going to the Titanic and recovering artefacts we remember the ship, we remember the passengers. The artefacts makes it more real as we can see what people used and what they took with them. It is like they live on through exhibitions like this.

Also by looking at the number of people who also went to the exhibition there is a lot of fascination about the ship. I loved seeing everything. I loved the stories and seeing the things they have brought up. It is really interesting.

Now, I have seen footage and documentaries that there are no bodies down there. Apparently with time they have disappeared. Sometimes they find shoes that were being worn, but that is all.

Okay that is enough on my views of the salvage operation to the RMS Titanic.

Let’s have a look at the first class artefacts and information. I have made the images twice the size I normally do so hopefully you can read what the signs say.

We will do another part tomorrow.

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  1. Photographs tell us a great deal about the Titanic and presenting the few artifacts together with the photo is an outstanding way to show context. It helps calibrate your imagination. I don’t think we need to dredge up artifacts just new can. Thanks for sharing.

    1. You’re welcome. I like that they are getting them, so they won’t be lost forever, but equally I like that they tour the world and are shared with everyone.

  2. Re the leave-her-in-peace vs get-what’s-possible debate, I think it’s all in the purpose the visiting. That makes the difference between respect, tribute, advancement of knowledge… vs sheer greedy plundering. This exhibit seems wonderful respectful and informative. I am struck by the cleverness — and the humanity — of issuing each visitor with a specific passenger’s boarding pass. What a powerful way to make the abstraction personal and real!

    1. I think you have said what I really think but couldn’t put into words. I think it helps us remember and pay tribute to it. I loved the exhibition and have more to show. I must admit I came home and looked up my passenger. Thank you for this Penny.

    2. Mass numbers are academic; one specific life makes the tragedy real. Ai Wei-Wei’s ceremony of reading aloud all the names of the Sechuan earthquake victims for e.g. (not possible in China, but widely practised elsewhere); or the sculptures and incised names in Toronto’s waterfront Ireland Park (https://www.canadairelandfoundation.com/explore/ireland-park/), connecting us to specific people within the mass human toll of the Irish Famine and emigration…

  3. I have only lived in Southampton for about the last fifty years but most of the crew on the Titanic came from Southampton and as I walk around the city and see the two memorials: one to the engineers and one to the musicians, I have always felt a sort of kinship to and sympathy for the people living here who lost maybe grandparents or great grandparents in the tragedy. So I have mixed feelings about it’s celebrity today. Learn from it, mourn those who died but remember with respect.

    1. So you have been there for a while RJ. It would be strange to have that sort of history around you for such a tragedy. I think that is what it is exactly. I have nothing but respect for it. It makes me so sad to hear the stores and see what was from the ship. There is also a lot of respect for how much that tragedy changed many things in shipping that made it a lot safer. Thanks for your thoughts on this RJ.

  4. My cousin (who lives in Frankston) went to that same Titanic exhibition and loved it. I have visited the Titanic exhibition that forms part of the SeaCity Museum in Southampton (UK) but I don’t recall it having any recreations of rooms. I imagine that seeing replicas of the rooms really helps place the actual exhibits in context and helps you imagine what the ship must have felt like to those travelling on board.

    I come from a long line of mariners (merchant and military) and am a family history nerd and that means I actually do know about a lot of wrecked ships. It’s a morbid joke in my family that one of our leading causes of death is torpedoes. I am inclined to think that wreck sites where there are human remains should be regarded more as grave sites and treated as such. I think if people want to go diving for the purposes of meaningful research, that is one thing, but with minimum disturbance to the site. There are plenty of wrecks without human remains where people who want to dive for fun can explore. That said, I have been to Pompeii and seen the casts of the victims in situ and I have been to many museums that exhibit mummies and bog bodies. I have my qualms about all of that too but there is some kind of balance to be struck between accessing and understanding our human history and treating human remains with dignity and respect. I am not sure where that line is and how to find the appropriate balance but I do think society is getting a bit better at the ethics of that.

    1. I loved the recreated rooms, really gave a sense of the ship.
      It is a difficult one about visiting it. I think too that because it takes a lot of money that not many people can actually visit it makes a difference.
      I think we all have to think about it and work out what we are happy with. I’m not a religious person so the area being sacred doesn’t mean a lot to me. So my thoughts are different.
      Thanks Laura for your thoughts.

    2. I am not religious either but I think human remains need to be treated with dignity and respect. However, at the same time, I believe it is important for us to have an understanding of human history and that includes historical, cultural approaches to death. I am not sure what the right answer is.

    3. I guess I don’t have that same idea, which is fine, we are all different. Though, apparently, there are no human remains there now, well that is what they tell us. I don’t know what the answer is either. Though I do like that with the artefacts from the ship they put together exhibitions like this to help us see what happened and to see who was lost. It makes it more real rather than just a story of something that happened in the past.

  5. I’m often interested in why this particular ship stays in the collective imagination, as well. In the scheme of things, it wasn’t really special; just another steam ship. I think the modernity factor might have something to do with it, too; but plenty of other ships since then have gone down without the same ‘eternal’ fascination (like the Lusitania, for example).

    Like you, I’m curious why this particular grave site is sacrosanct, though I’m sure it’s coupled with whatever keeps the Titanic in people’s collective memory. But, again, it’s no different than any other shipwreck.

    In my less-generous moments, I wonder if it’s because people sort of gloat over the ‘elitists’ ‘getting what’s theirs’ — I’ve never seen anything suggesting this, but human nature isn’t usually kind toward each other.

    On the other end of that spectrum, the capacity to recognize the tragedy of so many lives lost during one event. Or the idea that it was preventable with a bit more foresight.

    Whatever it is that keeps this ship afloat in the minds of people is almost as fascinating to me as the circumstances around the ship’s actual demise.

    Thanks for sharing the photos! They’re very cool to see.

    1. Perhaps it was because it was on his maiden voyage and everyone thought the ship couldn’t sink. there is something there.
      You have made some great points Matt and I think especially the tragedy of a such a preventable sinking. It is also interesting that many things changed after it sunk as well. Thanks for that.

  6. This is really great, it feels like you are taking a real trip back in time and are back on board the Titanic. Nice that you give us the opportunity to participate in this visit Leanne.

  7. This exhibit is one that I would just love to see! Where is it? In it’s time this was the luxury of it’s day. Now, all of that is on the bottom of the sea.

    1. Sounds like it could be a travelling exhibition as someone else said they had seen it in another country, so maybe look out, it might come closer to you.

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