Vintage Titanic postcard

Where can you see real Titanic artifacts?

I’ve been fascinated with the Titanic ever since I was little. Is there any place you could go to see some of the things they have retrieved from the wreck — or maybe even see the actual sunken ship?

History from the depths

From the day she was launched, the Titanic has fascinated millions of people worldwide. One could, in fact, say that her overall appeal to the interest of the general public only increased after her sinking.

When the world’s largest (at the time) ocean liner, declared practically unsinkable, actually went and sank on her maiden voyage, she took with her some of the world’s richest and most powerful people. It’s certainly the sort of thing that starts to foster a bit of fascination.

Underwater view of the bow of the Titanic
A view of the bow of the Titanic from a camera mounted on the outside of the Mir I submersible. Image courtesy of NOAA and the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Long thought lost to the depths of the ocean and history, she was rediscovered in 1985 by the renowned oceanographer Robert Ballard. Since then, numerous expeditions have been launched to photograph, explore, and — controversially — recover various artifacts from the ship strew across the ocean floor.

While some consider this a form of grave robbing, as the wreck is the final resting place for the vast majority of the 1,517 people who lost their lives when she sank, others consider it a way to preserve her history and honor her dead, much in the same way that the tombs of ancient Egypt gave up their secrets.

NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries issued a statement in 2010 that said in part:

It is an archaeological site, a memorial and it is visited both by submersible divers and remote technology. Titanic is accessible by these means to the public. Titanic should be accorded the same respect as a site such as Gettysburg. This is particularly important in that unlike a site like Gettysburg, the results of the Titanic disaster remain in their original context, including what appear to be where victims came to rest.

Time, too, is a factor, as corrosive bacteria seem to be eating away at what’s left of Titanic’s hull.

So, now that we’ve dispensed with the history lesson, let’s take a look at where one can see some of these lost treasures from the deep.

Titanic wreck - A view of the bathtub in Capt. Smiths bathroom
A view of the bathtub in Capt. Smiths bathroom. Rusticles are observed growing over most of the pipes and fixtures in the room. Image courtesy of Lori Johnston, RMS Titanic Expedition 2003, NOAA-OE.

A museum near you

Of course, the Number 1 place to find thousands of artifacts in one place is on the ocean floor, under water about two miles deep. Occasionally there are opportunities to actually go there… usually for about $100,000 per person.

Two of the companies that have offered this rare experience are OceanGate and The Bluefish. Neither of these companies offer run-of-the mill tours, but experiences of a lifetime.

The Bluefish site explained what their visitors to the deep will see:

We expect your dive duration to be approximately 11 to 12 hours. Illuminated by the powerful lights of the submersible your viewing port will be filled with images of the RMS Titanic.

The bright lights will pick up her huge anchors, larger than the submersible, and the capstans, the bridge and the famous grand staircase, all nestled amongst rivers of rust as the ocean slowly consumes the grand old lady.

You’ll see the ship’s telemotor, the massive boilers, the propellers and the Marconi Room, from which the world’s very first SOS was broadcast.

Amongst thousands of tonnes of twisted and corroding metal you may catch a glimpse of articles of a personal nature such as ships bags or small ladies shoes, graphic and solemn reminders of the human loss.

The OceanGate Survey Expedition is not just a tour, but will be creating the first photorealistic virtual 3-D model of the site.

“Documentation of the Titanic at this level of quality has never been captured before, and a very select few have had the opportunity to see the Titanic site in person,” says Mark Bauman, Founder and CEO, Virtual Wonders.

“There’s nothing like being there first-hand, yet technology has come a long way in the last 14 years since the last manned submersible visit to the Titanic. Today, virtual reality makes rare experiences available to scientists, educators, historians, students and aspiring explorers.

“Providing this truly immersive, experiential educational resource is certain to inspire next-generation explorers. Plus, imagine video games that educate while delivering history to museums or even your living room,” says Bauman.

MIR 1 submersible craft to visit the Titanic - 2003
MIR 1 is launched over the side of the Keldysh and will soon begin the 2-hour descent to the bottom of the North Atlantic Ocean (2003)

A little closer to home

Assuming that’s a little out of your price range, here are some other options:

The Luxor — Las Vegas, Nevada

Where else would you find the largest permanent display of Titanic artifacts? With over 25,000 square feet of display space, the Luxor’s collection includes items such as preserved baggage, the ship’s whistles, floor tiles, an unopened bottle of champagne, and a 15×25 foot section of the hull of the ship, colloquially known as the “Big Piece.”

RMS Titanic, Inc. traveling exhibitions — Various locations worldwide

The main group spearheading the retrieval of items from the Titanic, RMS Titanic, Inc. hosts a traveling exhibition that includes artifacts from the ship, such as plates, cups, silver, and the like; various passengers’ personal effects; as well as reproductions and recreations of various parts of the ship — along with stories of both survivors and victims. Shows typically run for six to nine months, so check back if there isn’t one near you.

Maritime Museum of the Atlantic — Halifax, Nova Scotia

This museum houses not only a collection of items from the ship — most plucked from the ocean during the search for survivors in 1912 — but they also have a collection of archival records, including documents and photographs dating from the time of the disaster.

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