What do you think of actors in costume at the Titanic Exhibitions


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What do you all think of the idea of actors in costume that work at the Titanic Exhibitions?

In my day, the floor guides at a Titanic exhibit would be themselves, and would be on hand to answer questions and give tours. Beginning with the first Chicago Titanic exhibit, the idea of having the floor staff as actors dressed as Titanic passengers/crew was introduced. Some love the idea-

But I can't help get past feeling it is so tacky....Akin to having people dressing as Nazis or concentration camp prisoners, and serving as the floor staff at the Holocoust Museum. It just seems so out of place, and a bit inapropritate.

But I do know it is done with the best of intentions. I do know the actors who work the exhibit work very hard- .

I just think the idea of actors dressed as JJ Astor or Molly Brown who can only answer questions that particular character would know is silly and cheapening to the experince. Just my opinion.

Many of you have been to Titanic exhibits with- and without the actors present. What do you all think? Should Titanic exhibit floor staff consist of people in period costume who act the role of the given character they are playing, or should it consist of narrative guides who are themselves, who are there to address any questions and give tours?

Many thanks

Tarn Stephanos

Boston, St. Paul, Toronto, Chicago and Dallas Titanic exhibit alumni..
 
S

Sandy Lynn Bagwell

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I haven't been to the exhibit yet, but according to a website that I found on the net, there is a permanent Titanic Exhibit in Florida, around Orlando, and they dress in costumes for the tour. I saw photos on the website. I have mixed feelings about it. On one hand I can see that they in their minds are paying tribute, but I can also see your point of view as well that it somehow cheapens the experience. Has anyone been to the exhibit in Florida?
 

steve maynard

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Hi Sandy,
I have been to the orlando exhibition 3 times and due to return to the states in 5 weeks time,
The exhibition is ALWAYS top of my list!!.
It is well worth the visit, Steve Santini Exhibits some of his items there , He will back me up.
YOU MUST GO !!!
All the best,
Steve
 
Jan 7, 2002
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The artifacts are stunning, without question. Im wondering what you think of the floor staff as being actors in costume. Do you prefer the floor guides as being actors in costume, or as themselves, ready to answer questions and give tours.?

regards

Tarn Stephanos
 

steve maynard

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Hi Tarn,
The staff only dress in period costume,They do not try to mimic any of the known Crew /Passengers.
While conducting the tour they tell you Facts and figures and are open to answer questions.I still like it !!,
Cheers,
Steve
 
Jan 7, 2002
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Hi Steve
actually in the 1st Titanic exhibit in Chicago, the actors played the role of the characters they were dressed as, and could answer only what that given character would have known. Ask them questions about modern expeditions, they'd look dumbfounded, because they were not supposed to break character. Its well intended. but I think the actors in costume are a bit out of place at a Titanic exhibit...

regards

Tarn Stephanos
 

Tracy Smith

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Many of the people interested in the Titanic are also interested in how people dressed in that era. There is no better way to view fashion than seeing someone actually wearing such clothes. As long as the clothes are historically accurate (reproductions are fine, but no polyester Halloween costumes, please!) and that the people only represent generic people of 1912, I don't see a problem with it.
 

Don Tweed

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At the exhibit in Seattle, there was a girl wearing a lifebelt and passing on Titanic information at the foot of a reproduced Grand staircase.
She stated the obvious and I took it one step further with more tidbits of history and the crowd started listening to me!
Now, I am not a scholar on the subject, but I do have my moments, and I was surprised that the young lady was not better informed.
Actually, it made me feel good I could enlighten the folks with a more detailed explanation on certain matters!
As far as costumes... who knows, P.T. Barnum said it best!
Just make sure the staff is well versed in Titanic lore before you turn them lose on the public.
-Don
 
Jan 7, 2002
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..."just make sure the staff is well versed in Titanic lore before you turn them loose on the public.."

Great point Don, and Ive been fortunate at the Boston and Dallas Titanic exhibits, we had several hardcore Titanic buffs on the floor staff. So our visitors were in good hands....

regards

Tarn Stephanos
 

Don Tweed

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Thank you Tarn.
That is what makes the exhibits all that they are.
Those individuals steeped in knowledge on our favorite subject makes the moment what it should be, a lesson in life and the fragile frame that we exsist in.
-Don
 
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Ill concure- When floor staff are fellow Titanic buffs, they can understand why it is some visitors are moved to tears when viewing the objects.

Many visitors clearly need to be alone, as their meeting with these Titanic artifacts was a deeply emotional, personal experince. But for others who wanted a human element that went beyond the narrative headsets, the floor guides were there to give tours and answer questions. We had a great floor guide in Dallas- we called him Jr- He was 14, but one of the most knowlegeble Titanic buffs Ive ever met. Thats what happends when one is weaned on the internet...
Titanic can hold a persons soul for a lifetime, and to come face to face with somthing from, or a part of the great ship is very emotional.

Two favorite areas for me was talkng by tha davit, relating to folks the story of lowering the lifeboats. Back then folks could touch the davit....And speaking by the Big Piece, when it was still being sprayed for conservation reasons was an amazing emotional experince..


Regards

Tarn Stephanos
 

Don Tweed

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Bravo Tarn.
The narrative headsets were a distraction for me.
The people were moving in groups like sheep with those things on.
I also happened upon individuals who were absorbed in the moment of some part of the tragedy.
That was when it all hit home that I was walking through my wildest dream come true!
I became very emotional from that point and very removed from my fellow visitors.
It became a very personal experiance, one I will always remember.
-Don
 

Eric Paddon

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I generally don't approve of the costumed characters in these exhibitions because to me that's something I'd more expect to see at a Disney style attraction (where everyone is a "cast member" there) and not in what should be a historic exhibition. In fairness, the Titanic exhibition is not the first place I've seen this kind of thing so they're only guilty of following a trend that's happened in other museums too, and I think it's a bit annoying frankly when you're confronted with someone whose job is ultimately to not break character once. I would prefer a knowledgable regular guide I can perhaps converse with on the subject in all facets.
 
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I would have to agree that actors in costume can be both a hiderance to some and an information savior to others. I really think it depends on you personally and how much you know about and relate to the Tragedy. I saw the Seattle exhibit and have to agree with Don about this one. I saw the same lack of information and was more than a bit surprised. I too took it upon myself to correct the misinformation being put out by the staff. I do not consider myself a "historian" on the Ship either but after 20 years of reading and studying about it I at least knew that the ship was 882 feet long. When I heard a gentleman (dressed as an able seaman) tell a group of visitors that the ship was "at least 1,500 feet long" I had to say something. As far as the headsets are concerned, I myself did not like them at all and took them off after the first 10 minutes. Being in the presence of all of the artifacts and such moved me to tears on several occasions. The reproduction of the Grand Staircase litteraly brought me to my knees and sucked the wind from my chest. Having the "Big Piece" less than 5 feet from my face was an experience I shall never forget. Lifealtering. In all of this I found the voice comming from my headset a distraction. However, for a person who had little to no idea about TITANIC, her passengers or crew, I can see where the would have been invaluable to at least helpful. I know my Wife and Best Friend (both of whom I Drug kicking and screaming to the exhibit) found them helpful.
 
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As in most any museum-style or exhibit venue, good taste is the byword. Mystic Seaport for years has featured costumed 1890's "historic interpreters" and they add so much to the experience of visitors. They are carefully screened, trained, and often experts in their various exhibit topics. Beechwood in Newport, the summer home of the Astors, features period costumed actors-the only mansion on Bellevue Ave. to do so. It becomes nearly a time-travel experience for many. Young children are captivated and it adds much to the experience of walking through the home. I do a costumed tour of the Lizzie Borden Museum and it is far more successful, entertaining and educational when the visitors ask about the decor and fashion. Some shy types even become more outgoing when they address a "roleplayer"- and children are a delight to observe. A costume frequently sparks animated exchange between host and visitor. The hand-held sets are being tried out in some of the Newport mansions-to negative reviews. They have been a feature at the Groton Nautilus Museum since it opened. Personally, I find them cold and uninspiring. Everything is "canned" these days-people miss the human touch and personalized service and courtesy. But I do agree that too much intrusiveness can be a bother - if exhibits are well-labelled, one does not need a constant babbling presence. The most wonderful exhibit of artifacts I have ever viewed was the opening at Greenwich in 1995- silent darkened rooms, simple and eloquent displays- and nobody speaking at all. Certain objects require a cathedral-like atmosphere to convey their poignancy. The wise curator knows human nature, and achieves a good balance.
 
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Great posts Don, Eric, Ryan and Shelley.
I never saw the Grenwhich exhibit, but have heard nothing but praise about that one.

For me though, nothing could top the 1998 Boston exhibit. Though under a Marquis tent structure, 2 ships on Expedition 98- The recently sunk Ocean Voyager and the Abielle Supporter docked accross the street!! The Big Piece arrived,and for a few days visitors could glimpse at the Big Piece sitting on the deck of the ship.
And once the scaffolding was in place, the Big Piece was put on display, still smelling of the sea and retaining paint...In those days the Big Piece was touchable....

As for the Lizzie Borden exhibit, dressing as her would indeed add character to that exhibit-
But I still think actors in costume at a Titanic exhibit are inappropriate. . A bit like having a New England Aqaurium guide dressed as Neptune, with Trident in hand, or Aquaman.

But floor guides are an absolute must at Titanic exhibits- but preferable as themselves- knowlegable about Titanic, and ready to answer Titanic questions. Floor guides add a human element to the exhibits. Where were you all in 1998-2000? When i managed the floor staff at the St.Paul,Toronto,and Dalls Titanic exhibits, finding knowlegable staff to man the floor as tour guides was like winning the lottery....A very rare thing! If you are a Titanic buff, and are in favor of artifact recovery, work at least one Titanic exhibit in your lifetime. It will be an experince unlike any other. (but work as yourself, not dressed as Archie Jewell...).

Regards

Tarn Stephanos
 
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I'm not fond of artifact recovery, but I do have an unhealthy interest in the Titanic, so I applied for work at the exhibition at the Maryland Science Center last year.

There were no dressed up tour guides...actually, there were no tour guides at all. It was a simple walkthrough, which was good, except when you had schoolkids coming in. Then, it was up to the chaperones to answer their questions, and of course they were utterly incapable of answering anything. And from what I could hear, those kids were asking some good questions, better than what an adult could ask!

I went to work at that exhibit because I honestly wanted to pass on what I've learned...okay, so I needed the job, too, but why not do something you love? But, it was difficult. Except for the aforementioned kids (and it was kids, not teenagers, who definitely could have cared less about the subject), the people who came in there did not seem to grasp the enormity of what they were seeing. One woman didn't want to know the outcome of the passenger's name she carried on her "boarding pass"...then why did she even bother going in to the exhibit? Another woman lost interest when I told her that Jack and Rose were not featured in the exhibit because they were fictional characters.
 

Don Tweed

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Kritina,
It is kind of sad those individuals did not want to further their knowledge in some shape or form.
True, they may not care about Titanic the way the majority of us board members do, but to not further ones education on any subject is something I have always been critical about.

Just my opinion, Don
 

Eric Paddon

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When I hear stories about people not being interested because they find out that Jack and Rose never existed, I get another reminder of how ultimately I think Cameron's movie did more damage in a lot of ways than good.
 
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