Sunday, April 15 marks the day, 100 years ago, when survivors saw the last bit of the Titanic disappear beneath the dark waters of the northern Atlantic. A tragedy like no other, the loss of the “unsinkable” ship had a huge impact on Transatlantic ocean voyages that has only recently recovered.
With museums opening in Belfast, Northern Ireland, where the ship was built, and Southampton, England, the Titanic’s home port, just in time for the 100th anniversary, 2012 could be called the “Year of the Titanic”. Thankfully we didn’t have to go quite that far to get our own brush with the most celebrated ship of all time.
Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition at Union Station
Union Station in Kansas City never fails to impress us with the quality exhibits it brings in. Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition is no exception. The staging rooms are designed to take you back to the exciting days when the ship launched. From the enlarged newspaper clippings to the clothing worn a the time, you can feel excitement and progress in the world.
“Breakfasts sat untouched”. That little bit of a title in the Kansas City paper made me realize just how like the tragedy of 9/11 the sinking of the Titanic really was. It was unfathomable to people; it shocked them to their core. How could such a marvel of machinery sink?
Boarding the Titanic
Before “boarding” your photo is taken at the Grand Staircase, a unique souvenir of your visit.
As you make your way through the interactive exhibit you see blueprints of the ship, scale models and artifacts salvaged from the water after the sinking or from the wreckage so many years later. Each piece of history has a story to tell; a story that may make you cry, or gasp at the irony, or even laugh. Black and white photos of the ship’s rooms and decks help put the artifacts in perspective and serve as a reminder that no matter how grand something is, it can disappear in an instant.
While many of us know the stories of Ida Straus and the “Unsinkable” Molly Brown, I was especially touched by the tales of those who worked on board the ship and the passengers who wouldn’t have been on board if not for an unfortunate coal strike. As with any tragedy, we left with heavy hearts, questions beginning with “what if” circling through our minds.
Did We Survive the Titanic?
As we made our way through the exhibit, we wondered if we would survive. I felt sure that my passenger, a 6 year old girl in second class, would survive due to age and status. (She did.) Doug’s passenger, a 65 year old man in First Class, was more difficult to guess. Would his station save him? He also traveled with his young daughter- maybe that would be cause for him to enter a life boat? Or would he face the watery grave with dignity? (Evidently he did the latter, as he did not survive.)
Helpful Tips for Visiting Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition at Union Station
- The Titanic exhibit runs through September 3 (Labor Day weekend), 2012. The exhibit is closed Mondays, open Tuesday through Sunday and on Monday holidays.
- Tickets are $19.12 (the year she sank) for adults; $16.12 for children, seniors & military.
- Special events take the week prior to- and the anniversary of- the Titanic sinking.
- The Titanic Exhibit has some of the greatest souvenirs I’ve seen. Replica China from all three classes of cabins, coal taken from the wreckage, replica boarding passes, books, movies, clothing… Plan to bring some spending money as there is something for everyone.
- Note: While the exhibition is open to all ages, children younger than 7 will find themselves easily bored. Much of the exhibit is “hands off” and many displays are secured with alarms. Children who are fascinated by ships will really enjoy time spent here, especially if they can read on their own and adults take the time to discuss what they are seeing.