When I arrived at the Titanic Artifact Exhibition in the Rialto Building on Congress Street, I received my boarding pass, a replica tickets from White Star Line, that included the name of an actual passenger who made the voyage. My name was Mrs. Arthur (Emily) Ryerson and I was traveling back home to America with my husband, 3 children and maid to attend the funeral of one of my sons who had been killed in an automobile accident. The party was traveling 1st class in cabins on the “B” deck.
I found the Ryerson’s cabins on a large layout of the ship and saw pictures of where they would have their meals. And unlike what Mrs. Ryerson would have seen, I saw how the 2nd and 3rd class passengers would travel.
The exhibit is arranged so that you see photos and artifacts of all aspects of this amazing and tragic story from the engineering and planning of the great ship through the voyage and then the fatal meeting with the iceberg (which makes a startling appearance in the exhibit) until the end where you find out if the person you’ve been following survived the ship wreck.
But mostly it’s about stories. If you rent the device where you can hear recorded information, you will hear many factoids and voices recreating first hand accounts of their experiences. But better yet, find one of the very helpful and friendly docents to tell you the stories.
Alora Cohen was the whiz who amazed Julie Ray and me with her voluminous knowledge of all things Titanic. At every artifact or photo she could recite interesting anecdotes and behind-the-scenes kind of information. Turns out she’s not a professional touring with the show, she’s a local Tucson artist that was hired for the duration of the show and she did her homework. A lot of it. All of the people we met were locals and all of them were brimming with info and stories.
Paul told us that the Titanic had 4 funnels: 3 were operational, the 4th was fake.
We heard that people weren’t the only passengers on Titanic. Six dogs were housed in a kennel on F Deck. It is rumored that American millionaire John Jacob Astor (who Alora called her “Titanic boyfriend” because she so admired him) released those dogs from the kennels.
We read that the last living survivor, Millvina Dean, recently passed away on May 31, 2009 as the oldest survivor of Titanic at age 97.
I came out of the exhibit singing “It was sad, it was sad, it was sad when the great ship went down. Husbands and wives, little children lost their lives, it was sad when the great ship went down,” a song I remember from my childhood. I bumped into Paco Velez in the gift shop at his day job and he said he had never heard the song. I guess it’s a generational thing.