DETROIT (Talk Radio 1270) The ill-fated Titanic went down almost exactly 100 years ago, leaving 1,514 voyagers in a freezing cold, watery grave.
And no one’s forgotten about it.
Tom Varitek, program manager of the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, called Charlie Langton’s 1270 Talk Radio morning show to discuss the enduring attraction of the Titanic story and outline the major Titanic exhibit at the Henry Ford.
Thousands of people have bought tickets to the exhibit — so, why are people still thrilled to look at artifacts of the wreck?
“I think first of all…it’s a technological story, where everything seemed to be right with the ship then things went not only wrong, but so horribly wrong, so quickly that it captured people’s imagination at the time,” Varitek said. “The equalizing factor of it…It affected all types of people, first class, second class, third class, crew. It was a horrible experience for all aboard. And you even had some celebrity with John Jacob Astor people like that, and then, of course, you had the James Cameron film … That 1997 film brought it back again for a whole new generation.”
The exhibit came to Michigan through Premier, the sole salvager of Titanic artifacts. It has several shows running across the country.
“They brought up literally thousands of artifacts, so they’re touring a few around,” Varitek said. “We do have the largest version of that touring around. It’s something that we’ve had our eye on it for awhile. It didn’t work with our schedule for a few times, then we started getting closer to 2012, which, of course, is the 100 anniversary, and everything started to fall into place. It just sort of worked out.”
There are 300 artifacts in the exhibit, including many ordinary artifacts to “create context for the extraordinary event,” Varitek said. Included are shaving kits, eyeglasses, shoes, dishware, cameras, cards, jewelry and personal belongings. There are replicas of state rooms and a third class berths, re-creations of the grand staircase and the bow of the ship.
“To me, that brings the story home …It makes it all seem real,” Varitek said.
There is also re-creation of the iceberg that took down the ship, that visitors can touch to see how frigid it really was on the ocean that night. So, how did the crew miss that iceberg jutting out of the ocean?
“The Wall Street Journal (in a new article) talked about how at certain temperatures there were mirages that night, that’s the new theory out there,” Varitek said. “Cold weather can play tricks on the eyes. It’s one of the many amazing stories.”
The only set of binoculars on ship were locked away in a case belonging to an officer who never got on board, Varitek added. There were only enough lifeboats for half the passengers. A Michigan Republican legislature chaired the investigation into the sinking of the “unsinkable” ship in the immediate aftermath, but different theories about exactly what happened still abound.
“Those third-class passengers were very far away from the deck,” Varitek said, explaining why so few of those passengers survived.
The exhibit continues through Sept. 30.