Titanic: The Artefact Exhibition
By Ray Edgar - The Age
When oceanographer Robert Ballard discovered the Titanic in 1985, 4 km. below the Atlantic surface, the debris of the ship was scattered over 2.5 kilometers of ocean floor.
Since then, those remains have been scattered around the world. At any one time there are eight Titanic: The Artefact Exhibitions on display. And, if they are anything like the Melbourne Museum's exhibition, all are excellent at telling the stories of the doomed ship.
With 1517 passengers killed (including the man responsible for the design), and another 706 rescued (including the White Star Line's chairman, responsible for the number of lifeboats), there is plenty of human drama.
RMS Titanic Inc obtained the rights under admiralty law, after Ballard relinquished ownership rights. Over seven dives, it retrieved some 5500 artefacts.
Despite this, one of the most startling images from the exhibition is pinned to the outside of the Titanic-sized Melbourne Museum. Taken in a Belfast dry dock, the photograph depicts the ship's builders dwarfed next to the propellers.
As a siren song to the exhibition it makes the actual entrance slightly cheesy, a scaled-down version of the ship's bow. We move through galleries in chronological order, from planning and creation, to walk through 1:1 scale model hallways, bedrooms and even the grand staircase.
The exhibition gauges its audience cleverly. In the glass vitrines housing the 280 artefacts, the most prosaic objects are filled with portent (a bolt, for instance, is from the lifeboat crane).
The galleries use lighting to appropriate effect, illuminating the stories of individuals whose photos hang on the walls.