Captain Edward John Smith, the seasoned captain of the infamous and ill-fated R.M.S. Titanic spoke these famous words:
“I cannot imagine any condition which would cause a ship to founder. I cannot conceive of any vital disaster happening to this vessel. Modern ship building has gone beyond that.”
I’ve always been fascinated by the story of “The Unsinkable Ship”. When I heard that Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition was opening at the Sloan Museum, I was thrilled! I eagerly started chatting about Titanic with my husband, assuming he’d attend with me. I’d heard amazing things about the traveling exhibit.
While my hubby was intrigued, the household member whose ears really perked up, belonged to those of my seven-year-old. My son was absolutely fascinated by the idea of the Titanic. He jumped up and down, and begged to be my date. I was thrilled by his enthusiasm, but I’ll be honest: I wasn’t sure if the subject matter would be age appropriate, or if the exhibit would be too overwhelming for my first-grader.
Fortunately, I had the opportunity to check out Titanic myself at the Bon Voyage Party. This lovely event celebrated the exhibit’s opening in January. A strolling dinner, classic cocktail served aboard the actual ship, and live, historic actors were featured. Each guest was given a Boarding Pass as well, with the name and information of a Titanic passenger. What a unique experience to assume the role of an actual passenger, and follow their journey and ultimate fate throughout the exhibit!
The Boarding Pass is standard for all guests of Titanic: The Artifact Experience. I knew my son would love following along with the story, so I booked a date for the two of us. I decided ahead of time that I’d let him take Titanic at his own pace. From the moment we arrived at the exhibit and he took hold of his Pass, my son was enthralled. He eagerly entered, and I let him guide the way and gravitate towards whatever caught his interest.
We took our time on the chronological journey, checking out each picture and reading the historical facts detailing the passengers and crew. Many influential people of that time were on board the ship including Jacob Astor, Benjamin Guggenheim, and the owner of Macy’s. One of our favorite tidbits of information was the cost of a ticket to board the ship. A first-class ticket on Titanic to New York was $2,500, which equates to approximately $57,200 in today’s market! We loved looking at replicas of the ship’s menus, and the recovered silverware and cooking utensils. To my son’s surprise and delight, a “passenger” even greeted us as we toured displays of the first and third class cabins.
As we journeyed further into the experience, the true tragedy of the ship came to light. Iceberg warnings were posted all around, and the sounds of deep sea travel surrounded us. It got darker, and more somber as the evening that the Titanic met its demise was portrayed. My son’s eyes got large, and his attention focused on the life-sized iceberg which is a hands-on part of the exhibit. Yet, as tragic as the scene was and actually felt, the time-line of events and focus on actual passengers served as such a fascinating history lesson, that my son’s mood was more pensive than sad or upset. As a mom, this was the part of the exhibit that I was most concerned with explaining. I wasn’t sure how my little history buff would process the fact that yes, many people did die, this wasn’t a movie, but actually happened.
Naturally, my son was full of questions. I was prepared and happy to answer his queries. But I was pleasantly surprised that the exhibit did a great job of answering many questions for him, and even raised a few new ones that he hadn’t considered before. The modern day efforts to preserve and further recover the wreckage sight in particular, fascinated my little guy. This new information led us to our local library to check out more interesting facts about the Titanic and her wreckage sight.
My grade schooler’s attention was carried right through to the end of the exhibit, where we found out the fate of our assumed identities. We were both First Class passengers – most of whom survived – although all those aboard the ship were listed. While we discovered our “fate” we also learned about the Titanic’s local connection, another fascinating part of the entire event.
Titantic: The Artifact Exhibition did not disappoint! I’m so glad that I was able to share the experience with my son. It was definitely age appropriate and has even peaked the interest of my five-year-old. If you’re a parent considering taking your child, I’d definitely urge you to go with the caveat that I’d encourage you to let your son or daughter take the exhibit at his or her own pace and speed. It was a wonderful day spent with my little history buff, and I love that it has sparked further discussion and education beyond the actual exhibit.
Open until May 21, 2017, tickets are $14 for adults and $11 for children 2 and older. Advanced purchase is recommended.
Have you experienced Titanic: The Artifact Experience with your child?