Los Angeles Titanic Exhibit


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Mike Herbold

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Dec 13, 1999
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Shame on me for taking so long, but Ms. Boss and I finally went to the RMS Titanic exhibit at the California Science Center in Los Angeles this past weekend.

For anybody who has lived in Southern California longer than a few years, that's the same thing as the old Museum of Science and Industry, next door to the LA Coliseum.

The exhibit is very worthwhile. Adult price is $9.50, or $15.00 if you want to see the exhibit and the IMAX movie "Titanica". Head sets for an audio tour while you are walking around are another $5.00.

It's a very enjoyable 2-3 hour walk-through, and had a few surprises that I wasn't expecting. The highlight for me was one room that concentrated on the passengers from Southern California, mainly George Brereton, the Clarks, Thure Lundstrom, and Titanic Johnson. Their biographies were obviously courtesy of Encyclopedia Titanica, but it's nice to see them on a big wall just the same. There were a few nit-picky errors -- Brereton was mentioned as a "former car salesman" in 1912, when actually the only record of his being a car salesman was on his 1942 death certificate. Records from the 1910s and 1920s say he was involved in real estate or was a developer. It also insinuated he was lucky because the passenger list he brought home with him sold for $25,000 in 1998 -- excuse me, he had been dead 56 years already. The hefty price tag on the passenger list didn't do him any good. But I digress.

I enjoyed the replicas of the Grand Staircase, the entrance to the First Class Dining Salon and the other rooms.

Seeing the Big Piece is interesting. Riveted construction seems so ancient. I'm more and more confused nowadays about which room the Big Piece was suppossed to be near. I remember at one time it was suppossedly next to the Douglas' room, C-86. Then I heard it was near the Harris' room C-85. I think the exhibit listed it as adjacent to C-81 and C-83.

One little nugget made my day. Against one wall was a brief recap of the Howard Irwin and Henry Sutehall story. In the glass case below that were a number of items recovered from the Titanic wrecksite, a few of which were connected to Sutehall and Irwin, including two Howard Irwin name cards (like business cards, but just listing his name and "Buffalo, N.Y."). Then all by itself, with no mention of why it was there, there was a little emblem showing the Alligator Farm. There was no explanation, and no mention that that little emblem was connected to Irwin. I'm sure Dave Shuttle won't mind if I let one little cat out of the bag, but one of the places that Sutehall and Irwin visited in their round the world adventure was the Eastlake (Los Angeles) Alligator Farm in September 1910. This little emblem was obviously from Irwin's baggage that was recovered from the Titanic wreck, along with Irwin's diary.

But enough of the details. We who study and agonize so much over Titanic trivia often miss the whole point. That point was brought home for me by watching the people around me on the tour. They were spellbound by the Titanic story and fascinated by its history. They reacted in awe and empathy. All of us were given a boarding pass when the tour started with the name of a passenger on board. Every tourist I saw made a point of examining the passenger lists on the wall later to see if they were a survivor or not.

On the day we went, Lee Meredith was in the gift shop, selling copies and autographing his book "1912 Facts About The Titanic."

The gift shop is very well stocked with pictures, books, clothing, posters, spoons, replica china, coffee cups, blankets, and all. There were dozens of Steve Santini's Sinking Titanic model and book. Nowadays I drink my first cup of coffee every morning in my new Titanic mug.

Would I recommend the exhibit? Yes, indeed. Even for we smug Titanic know-it-alls, there are little nuggets everywhere that revitalize your interest in things Titanic.
 
Mar 20, 2000
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Hi Mike,

Good to see you here.

I was reminded of your research into the California folks when I ran across articles about Edith Rosenbaum Russell's visit to San Francisco in 1915 to cover the Exposition for "Women's Wear Daily." I have some of her columns discussing California and Californians as well as an open letter of her's to the directors of the Exposition, giving her frank (and "busy-body") advice. I will send these to you if you're interested.

Randy
 

Mike Herbold

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Dec 13, 1999
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Randy:
Thanks a million. Visitors to our Golden State do count in the California-related category, so even people like Murdock and Lightoller have California footnotes. Also the Snyders, who vacationed here. Thanks for the offer.
 
May 8, 2001
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HI Mike. I too have been watching for some more California Connections. Need to gather up my notes, and compare them. I have 8 or 10 offshoots.
Take care, and stop by more often!
 
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Hydie Cheung

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Hello Mike! I am from Los Angeles too. Do you happen to know how long will this exhibition last? I would love to see it this summer. Thanks for sharing!

- Hydie
 
Jul 12, 2003
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I saw the LA exhibit a couple weeks ago and it is well worth visiting. One thing I liked was the "boarding pass" you are given before you enter the exhibit. It's a ticket with the name of one of the passengers on the ship. It tells you the person's name, age, where they are from, where they are going, and what class they travelled.

The exhibit goes until the beginning of September. You can go to the California Science Center website and read about the exhibit.
 
Jul 12, 2003
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One thing I thought of that I wanted to ask but posted my message before doing so. Anyone who visited the exhibit...did you, by any chance, put your hand on the wall of ice? I was only able to keep my hand on a few seconds shy of a minute.
 
Jul 12, 2003
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The only thing that bothered me on the day my friend and I went was how unruly some kids were. They were about 8 yrs. old. To me it was a place of reverence and you should behave as you would in a library. But these kids were running around and a few times they ran into the smaller exhibits thus setting off the alarms. The adults had no control over them. My friend, at one point, at one point actually told the kids to hush. I don't think the kids understood what they were seeing. All they seemed to know was that "a ship sank". Luckily, not all the kids behaved that way. My friend and I just hung out in one room and let that group move ahead.
 
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Hydie Cheung

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one thing i want to ask. do you have to preorder the tickets?
 
Jul 12, 2003
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I didn't realize that the postings that appear in my e-mail are here too...I thought that the ones I got in my e-mail weren't in here...oh well, live and learn...but Hydie, I will tell you that my friend and I didn't pre-order. We just showed up. You go through the exhibit at your own pace anyway. If you want more info, go visit www.casciencectr.org
 
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Hydie Cheung

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thx for the link, Debbie! I think I might go visit it some time later in this summer.
 
Jul 12, 2003
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Hydie...I sure hope you get to go...you will definitely not be disappointed...it took my friend and I a few hours because we wanted to read every single plaque and take a look at every item closely...FYI, we went in the morning...it wasn't crowded and you could easily go from one display to another without waiting for a crowd to disappear.

Also there is a parking fee...they will also offer you a recorded guide to listen to as you go thru which I think costs a fee...I don't think they tell you anything else above what you can read on the plaques.

Anyway, bring extra money in case you want to use the recorded guides and for the parking.
 
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Hydie Cheung

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Thank you for your suggestions, Deborah. I am definitely going. You don't always get the chance to see this kind of exhibitions often in LA. No matter what, I will ask my parents to take me there in some day. Thank you very much for all the informations. I would never know such a wonderful chance if you haven't brought it up here. =)

Love,
Hydie
 
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Hydie Cheung

Guest
By the way, for those of you who have seen the iMAX movie, how long is it? And do you like it? What is it mainly about?
 
Jul 12, 2003
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Hydie...I saw the IMAX movie in a regular theater and it was approximately one hour...I thought it was great...it took me a few minutes to get used to the 3-D effect though...I am not sure what is show at the exhibit as I didn't see it there...my friend and I asked the people in the theater (at the exhibit) if it was the James Cameron documentary or one of the others that have been shown on TV...we weren't sure...they told us it wasn't the James Cameron 3-D one.
 
Jul 12, 2003
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Not sure where to post this...it's just an FYI...I live in So. CA and today at 5:00 (PST)on PBS channel is program called "Secrets of the Dead"...I saw it a few days ago and it was pretty good..it's about using DNA to identify three of the victims from a Nova Scotia cemetery...in it, you will see how they discover the identity of the Unknown Child...I know that most PBS programs are available for purchase, in case anyone doesn't get the channel
 
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Hydie Cheung

Guest
Oh yes, Deborah. I have watched that show some days ago and it was great. Thank you for your information on the IMAX movie.

Besides "Secrets of the Dead", the History International Channel is also going to show a program called "Titanic: An Accident waiting to happen" (I am not sure about the exact title). It is gonna shown on History International Channel on July 16, Wednesday, 8:30PM or July 17, Thursday, at 12:30am (PST). Don't miss it!

- Hydie
 
Jul 12, 2003
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Here is a brief synopsis of "Secrets of the Dead"...

Showed original footage of the recovery boats preparing to leave port to gather the bodies from the sinking site on the Mackey-Bennett (sp?). Four days later they woke and found a sea of bodies floating upright. Some of the sailors kept diaries of their experience in recovering the bodies. Three other ships joined the MB in her work. Many bodies had to be buried at sea because of major decomposition. About 120 were buried at sea…60 without names.

They only found one child, now known as the Unknown Child. The sailors were moved by this discovery above all others and decided to have a funeral for him if he wasn’t claimed.

Joan Allison lives in Canada and her grandmother, Catherine Wallace, sailed on the Titanic. Catherine was 35 years old and hired on the ship to work with the 3rd class passengers. Wallace was from Southampton, widowed with four children. The oldest was 12 years old and her name was Maleta. Maleta was Joan’s mother and she is buried in Halifax.

Alan Ruffman, Titanic historian, discovered a storage room in Canada that holds the recovery records which include coronors records, pictures and other reports. It was possible the the body buried in grave #281 was Catherine Wallace. Brian Paar, Biological Anthropologist worked with Ruffman to gather DNA. Some blood was taken from Joan to match the DNA with Catherine. But Catherine’s grave had been flooded with water 12 feet down and nothing was left to use in the identification process. So #281 remains unidentified.

There are 44 headstones in Halifax and the victim in #240 could be Charley Shorney due to a watch with an inscription found with the body. There is a post-mortem photo that does resemble a photo of Charles but, using FBI identification methods, it is discovered that the eyebrows don’t match and especially the ears (which is a major way of identifying and matching bodies). Charles was from Sussex and was on his way to met his fiancé in NY. He originally was supposed to sail on a different ship but changed his ticket to sail on the Titanic. Also, #240 remains unidentified.

Nuclear DNA is found in both father and mother but it is the miocarndrial (sp?) found only in the mother that is best to use as identification.

Body #4 found was the child. When no one claimed the child, the sailors kept their word and had a funeral for the child in the Round Church. The sailors adorned the body with a copper plaque commemorating the boy. The plaque kind of fused with the bone thus preserving a small part of the body. If the plaque was not there, there would be nothing left to use for a DNA test. A couple little teeth were found too. The first group of people who thought they were connected did not match. The third one that was tested came from Finland from Magda Schliefer. There was a match. It boils down to…the Unknown Child is identified as Eino Viljami.

I wrote the names down and I hope I remembered all the little details correctly.
 
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