Detroit Science Center Artifact Exhibit


Dan Cherry

Member
Mar 3, 2000
775
1
0
I had the opportunity to travel with friends to the Titanic exhibit at the Detroit Science Center on February 26.

We picked Wednesday mid-morning to attend the museum, thinking that it would make for a quiet and relaxing journey touring the Titanic experience. Middle of the work-week, during school hours....
How wrong we were!
Not less than 30 school buses were unloading 8-10 year olds into the hall when we pulled into the adjacent parking lot. We did manage to enter the exhibit just ahead of the straggling students.

At the start of the tour, one enters a freight elevator bathed in blue light, with accompanying sound effects to make like you have entered a submarine and are about to 'dive to the Titanic'.
On a slightly humorous note, though, the elevator went UP one floor to the Titanic exhibit.

The artifact rooms are darkened and security guards make sure the pieces are treated with respect. The most interesting piece in room one is the recovered D-deck shell door. The door is one inch thick, about 4 feet wide, and at just over 6 feet tall, I deduced I would have had to duck significantly to enter Titanic. Also in the room is a porthole (probably from F or G-deck, as it was approximately 12"; the framework from the end of a deck bench; the twisted remains of a gold chandelier, and other items I shall refrain from describing to not entirely spoil the tour for future visitors.

Most of the recovered items from on this particular exhibit have been prominently displayed in Susan Wels' book, including personal effects (such as money, postcards, and letters). Also on display is 'the' cherub, 'the' egg dishes seen in the 1987 photograph just as recovery efforts commenced and many other items displayed in the above-mentioned book.

The re-enactors seem well-versed in the traditional facts and stories of the ship and their character's role in the time period. Two were present in this exhibition - one as a shipbuilder, the other closely paralleling the fictional first class passenger girl from the most recent Titanic film.

In one well-lit room is a model of the Titanic, approximately 1:100 or 1:144 scale.

Though the tour of the exhibition was interesting to behold, it was hampered by about two dozen yelling and running children per room with little or no charge, literally pushing their way to enclosed artifact showcases. If one wants to stand and reflect in silence in the disaster, you may find this endeavor difficult under the circumstances. Again, most of the artifacts were the more familiar pieces seen in magazines and books and on television. I think because I was used to seeing them, viewing them in person had little emotional impact on me. Because I have little personal connection to Titanic, merely personal interest, the exhibit was little more than a culmination of years of hobby research.

One of the items on hand that appealed to the younger tourists was the slab of ice with a sign encouraging them to 'feel what the iceberg was like'. The sign also challenged those who touch the ice to see how long one can hold their hand on it. Some stalwart child left a handprint-shaped indentation that became over an inch deep after his companions took turns imprinting the same spot.

The most disturbing element of the tour is the passengers' personal effects. There are placards above each display, describing the artifacts in detail. Some of them attribute the piece directly to a passenger, and especially if they survived or not. Some were from who did - others not. There is a shoe in one case, and you can't help wondering if the person aboard made it. Likely, they did not, as the footware was obviously third class or crew in origin. Depending on your views of the salvage efforts, these will induce sadness or anger or a weave of emotions in between.

After exiting the half-dozen or so rooms that make up the artifact exhibit, one enters the final room before leaving the tour - the gift shop. Everything from Titanic candy bars, towels, hats, sinking models, stickers, postcard reproductions and books greet you right at the doorway. The more serious Titanic students should take note, however, of the reproduction china on the back shelves. These pieces were the only items I had decided prior to attending I would consider adding to my Titanic collection. The dishes are near-exact, carefully crafted copies of the dinnerware used on board the Olympic-class vessels, the exception being the manufacturer label on the bottom of the piece. The inscription on the bottom clearly indicates it as a reproduction piece, and will deter anyone 50 years from now trying to pass them off as authentic White Star china. I acquired two plates, one mug, and two cup and saucer sets from across all three classes to fill the empty space in my cabinet at home.

The IMAX film 'Titanica' was presented after the tour of artifacts. Little of Titanic is actually shown in this film. Most of the film depicts the people involved in the filming dive, reminding me of the 1991 TV program involving the Canadian-US-Russian team. Much was dedicated to showing off the technology and people involved, but little on the ship itself. My guess is that less than a third of the footage, lasting 45 minutes, were of the Titanic herself. A fascinating piece for those interested in this aspect of the story of Titanic, though.

The planetarium show on the night sky as seen by the Titanic passengers and crew in the North Atlantic was, in my opinion, the most interesting portion of the Titanic experience. The information is updated, and it left me with the impression that someone had read Capt. David Brown's book when researching this film, particularly about the events shortly before the collision, during, and right after.

Overall, for the casual observer, the Titanic exhibit is a good start to take in the visual aspects of the ship. For the serious researchers and the 'experts', it is a nice diversion from everyday activity, and once you've left the center, you can say you've 'been there, done that'.
 

Bill Sauder

Member
Dec 19, 2000
230
2
171
Dan.

Thank you for your very thoughtful critique of the Detroit Titanic Exhibit, it is much appreciated.

Bill Sauder
 

George Behe

Member
Dec 11, 1999
1,280
4
0
Hi, Dan!

I enjoyed last night's phone conversation as well as reading today's description of your trip to the DSC. Hopefully we'll bump into each other in person in the not-too-distant future. :)

Take care, old chap.

All my best,

George
 
Jan 29, 2001
1,282
0
221
Hello Dan:

I can find it only fitting that *30 school buses* were unloading 8-10 year olds. I feel 8-10 is an approriate age to expose these young adults to a prime example of mankind's tenuous existance.

Perhaps in the future they may pause for a moment to hold open a door for a senior citizen and might even stop to help a handicap individual depart from their vehicle.

Michael A. Cundif
USA
 

Matt Smith

Member
Sep 23, 2002
98
1
148
Thanks Dan! I am planning on attending to the exhibit. Now I can't wait to go. I will be sure to try to go during Spring Break (even though it will be plenty crowed since all the kids will be out of school). Well anyway thanks again

Matt
 

amy sutak

Member
Mar 6, 2006
25
0
71
Hi I have went to that exhibit twice. I was captivated by door also. It was by far my favorite piece. I could have stayed and just looked at that all day. I did look at it for about 15 mins. I would have looked longer but people were starting to stare at me. ha ha When I went to the exhibit I was surprised at what people kinda avoided looking at such as the door and the shoe. People would glance at the personal items but they really wouldn't go near them.I kept wondering if anybody in the same room was seeing the same things I was. Thank you for your post I now know that there were people at the exhibit that were really looking like I was.By the way did you want to break the lovely kids fingers every time the alarms went off like I did?
 

Dan Cherry

Member
Mar 3, 2000
775
1
0
Hi, Amy,
there were no perimeter alarms that went off when I was there. The only thing that even came close to raising my ire was the comments I heard from the kids, such as the 'cool junk from the Titanic' and one who sampled the perfumes from the open case in the last room "Cool! The Titanic smelled like [fruit cereal]!" I do not believe those left to their own charges had the understanding of what it was they were seeing - and who can blame them. Most of them were 8 years old and I think were more fascinated with having a day away from school than anything else. A few were fortunate enough to have their parents with them who took them aside, read the cards with each artifact with them, and took a moment to view the item with a respective reverance. Those are the children who I hope took their experience with them after they left. I was explaining the significance of the artifacts with some of my friends (who knew little about the ship) in a voice that I hoped others would hear [ i.e., my tour guide voice :) ]
As for the amount of time people spent at each artifact, I rounded the cherub at least twice, 'measured' the tiles with my program (the carpenter in me, I guess) and spent up to a minute or so at each of the display cases. The rest of the crowd was in 'sound byte mode', spending about 5-10 seconds at each case, then, 'cool', it was on to the next.
 
D

Daniel Lakaner

Guest
Hi guys,

I visited the Titanic exhibit in Chicago Illinois. It was excellent, I really enjoyed it. Like Dan said, when we arrived there, right behind us were about 10 school buses, full of those little brats. ;)

I had a great time, and i recommend to visit the exhibit if it comes near you.

All the best,
Dan
 

Dan Cherry

Member
Mar 3, 2000
775
1
0
Brats? Gad, I hope not!
The children were typical kids at the exhibit, and I made mention of the children situation just to alert future exhibit attenders that quiet reflection while standing in front of the artifacts probably will be difficult. After all, the exhibit is at a hands-on museum very popular with the young folk.

Kind regards,
Dan
 

amy sutak

Member
Mar 6, 2006
25
0
71
Hey guys I will have you know I was well behaved both times I went.ha ha Daniel and Dan what was your favorite artifact?The d-deck door was it for me. I had no idea it would be there and when the doors opened I was in shock.Did you find anything you didn't expect?
 

Dan Cherry

Member
Mar 3, 2000
775
1
0
HI, Amy,
the D-deck door probably was the item that most surprised me. I've seen a lot of photos of what they've recovered, including one of the door. My first reaction when the doors opened was, "Huh! They've got the door here!" I was interested in the fact the door was upright and you could walk all around it. I found myself checking out the mechanisms and the 6-bolt lock system. What I found most interesting is that the glass in the split window was still intact. I looked through the window, pondering if any passenger wandered to the window and peeked through the grill at the ocean. Also, as I said originally, I would have had to have stooped to board Titanic, as the door only appeared to be about 5'5" or so high.
I did not anticipate the cherub would be there, either. It was interesting to see it in person, whereas all I had seen before were photos.
 

Matt Smith

Member
Sep 23, 2002
98
1
148
Hey Guys

I have gone to the exhibit now and I thought it was great. The lady in the 1st class cabin really knew what she was talking about (I tested her a little). The decoration was great as well as the sound effects. The a la Carte Cafe was great. The fake iceberg was cool to show you what it really felt like in the water.

My ticket was Mr.Thomas Drake Martinez Cardeza! I thought it was really cool to get someone a new a lot about!

As Dan Cherry said alarms were always going off but it wasn't that bad. I went on a Sunday so no little kids.

If you live in the Detroit area I suggest it to you. I thought it was really cool.

Matt
 
Jul 7, 2002
183
0
171
I have been volunteering at the exhibit one day a month since it opened. I love the artifacts but the schoolkids *can* be challenging. Not all are rowdy; some groups are actually interested in Titanic. If you want to avoid school groups, visit the exhibit in afternoon (since most school fieldtrips are there when the exhibit opens).

I find this exhibit small, but emotionally powerful, especially if you have the time to examine each artifact and think about it. The one that gets to me is Mr. Brown's pocket watch.

If you travel to the Detroit area for the exhibit, be sure to get over the Henry Ford Museum to see Ghosts of the Abyss. (The imax at the Science Center is showing Titanica.)

Cathy
 
Jul 7, 2002
183
0
171
Matt,

The lady in the first class stateroom is Elizabeth and she *is* a wonderful speaker!

When I work I am in modern clothing wearing a large button that says "Ask me about Titanic: the Artifact Exhibit." I roam the exhibit and answer questions.

I'm glad you enjoyed the exhibit!

Cathy
 
Dec 4, 2000
3,242
507
278
Cathy -- I will be at the museum on June 28 doing a presentation on my book. Will you be there? If so, introduce yourself.

-- David G. Brown
 
Jul 7, 2002
183
0
171
Hi David,

I'm not sure what day I will he there, since I only volunteer one day a month. (I'm a college professor and my summer class starts June 30.) I'll try to make it that day and if I'm there I will look for you. It's always nice to meet ET folks!

Cathy

P.S. What is the name of your book?
 

Similar threads