A major attraction, especially for curious children, is a large, re-created iceberg that they can touch. Visitors view a lavish first-class stateroom, and a considerably less elaborate third-class cabin with bunk beds and exposed pipes. The exhibit explores the mistakes that were made, from the lack of sufficient lifeboats to the belief that
the ship was “unsinkable.” “They cut corners,” Hoffman said. “They were trying to set a speed record. They took the shortest distance, which took them through dangerously icy waters. And they were going at very high speeds. Even though this was the most technologically sophisticated thing ever done, they still cut corners.
Create lasting memories with this Titanic photo opportunity (ABOVE). Artifacts from the Titanic (BELOW).
They used iron on some of the rivets instead of steel, and those were the ones that popped when they hit the iceberg.” The organization RMS Titanic Inc. is the only company allowed by law to recover objects from the wreck. The company was granted the rights in 1994 by a federal court and has conducted seven research and recovery expeditions, bringing back more than 5,500 artifacts. And there is more where those came from. “Initially there was a public and private debate about whether the artifacts should be removed,” said Hoffman. “But once it became clear that everything was going to disintegrate, most of the descendants of the passengers thought we should bring the artifacts up.” In the process, the exhibit reveals, scientists have discovered that iron-eating bacteria is slowly but steadily devouring what remains of the ship. The goal of RMS Titanic is to stop the deterioration, but the bacteria is winning. Many of the children who tour the exhibit want to know how people died in the wreck. “Kids, like adults, are fascinated by life and death,” Hoffman said. “So it’s natural that they’re interested. What they find out is that most of the people died from hypothermia, not drowning.” On his undercover strolls through the exhibit, Hoffman has observed visitors responding to different aspects. “People seize on different things according to their interests and their ages,” he said. “So what we try to do is appeal to those different aspects. They are coming in force to see this. It’s about science and technology, but it’s a deeply human story.” Titanic: The Artifact Exhibit runs through May 30 at Liberty Science Center, 222 Jersey City Boulevard, Jersey City. Visit www.lsc.org for more information.
FEBRUARY 2016 PRINCETON MAGAZINE
1/15/16 11:38:32 AM
Witherspoon Media Group