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Last Updated:  Wednesday, 5 March, 2003, 17:25 GMT
Voyage to the bottom of the sea
By Lisa Mitchell
BBC News Online

Visitors can touch iceberg
A wall of ice recreates the fateful night of 15 April 1912
Dominated by a two and a half ton fragment of the ship's hull, an exhibition this summer at the Science Museum in London promises to let people get as close to Titanic as possible without actually visiting it on the seabed.

In addition to 200 artefacts rescued from two and a half miles under the sea, Oscar-winning Titanic director James Cameron's 3D film of the wreck will premiere at the museum's IMAX cinema.

The museum says the feat of engineering involved in the construction of the vessel and the epic efforts to bring her treasures to the surface are what inspired it to host the exhibition.

But it is bound to be the ship's bell which sounded the alarm "Iceberg ahead!" and the shoes, photos and personal letters which have survived 90 years at the bottom of the sea which will draw in the ordinary visitors.

Jigsaw puzzle

In the most recent dive to the wreck, tram tickets priced 2 1/2d from the East End of London were recovered, preserved in a leather wallet.

There is also a porthole from the third class deck.

"You can imagine someone looked out of that as they said goodbye to Southampton, hoping to look through it and see the Statue of Liberty," said Mark Lock, of Clear Channel Exhibitions.

This is an opportunity for us to show the wonder of this amazing piece of engineering
James Rudoni
Science Museum curator

Clear Channel has taken the exhibition around the world and while it is running in London this summer, some of the other 6,000 items retrieved from Titanic will simultaneously be on display in Paris and Los Angeles.

Going down in a submersible to the wreck site, looking into Captain Smith's cabin, was something Mr Lock says he will never forget.

"Seeing it first hand was incredible," he said.

Piecing together the histories of the finds has been tricky but illuminating.

Another new exhibit is a 5 note which belonged to a George Thorne - except that was not his real name.

He was really importer George Rosenshine, but he was travelling with his mistress Mabel and had assumed her name for the voyage.

Then there was the mystery of Howard Irwin, whose upholsterer's tool was brought to the surface in 1994.

With no sign of him at the docks, a friend had loaded Howard's bags on board for him.

But Howard never made the sailing because he had been press ganged onto a boat bound for Egypt and made it back to the US safely. His friend drowned.

'Compelling science element'

In addition to the exhibits, visitors will be able to walk through a reconstructed first class and a third class cabin, recreated with furnishings made by the original manufacturers.

And they can touch a wall of ice to give them an idea of what it must have been like to be plunged into the freezing water of the North Atlantic in the early hours of 15 April, 1912.

It is not, head of the Science Museum Jon Tucker said, a Hollywood set.

Five pound note
A 5 note found intact and brought to the surface
"Bringing the real to people is a Science Museum objective, and this is what this exhibition does," he said.

"It's an awesome achievement to bring these things two and a half miles to the surface and keeping them intact and it is going to prove to be an emotional and very moving display."

There is also, he says, a "compelling science element" to the exhibition.

"The Hollywood version will probably bring them to the museum but then they'll realise it is more than just a big ship," says museum curator James Rudoni.

"It took the world's biggest scaffolding to build it and the largest ever triple expansion engine to power it.

"This is an opportunity for us to show the wonder of this amazing piece of engineering."

When visitors enter the exhibition they will be given a boarding ticket with the name of a real Titanic passenger on it.

Only when the reach the end can they check it against a list to find out if their passenger lived or died.

  • Titanic: The Artefact Exhibition opens on 16 May.
  • Ghosts of the Abyss premieres at the Science Museum IMAX cinema on 15 April.

    Titanic's baby victim identified
    07 Nov 02 |  Americas
    Anniversary of Titanic's sinking
    15 Apr 02 |  England
    Titanic timepiece sold
    13 Apr 02 |  England

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