I have always found the historic tale of the Titanic's final voyage to be so fascinating.
An “unsinkable” ocean liner making its way to America, embarking on a journey that promised some passengers a new beginning in life. Maybe I've watched the 1997 Hollywood blockbuster film too many times to count, but there's something about Titanic that keeps me wanting more.
When I heard about the artifact exhibit coming to Sci-Port this month, I literally lit up like a small child at Christmas. I don't think I've ever been more excited about crossing the Red River into Shreveport than I was when I finally got my chance to go see it.
As I walked through the doors of Sci-Port, I was handed a boarding pass, detailed with my new identity of an actual passenger aboard the Titanic. My name is Miss Dorothy Winifred Gibson, a first class passenger traveling back to America with my mother. I am an actress in early motion pictures who boarded the ship after receiving a message from the movie studio to return early from Italy to begin the next film.
My hour-long, walk through took me through a complete history of Titanic; the ship's conception, construction, life on board as a passenger and the events leading up to its final decent to the bottom of the North Atlantic Ocean. The information was there at my fingertips, waiting to be consumed piece by piece.
The artifacts, all preserved through an extensive process, are laid out in specially designed cases to prevent further deterioration. A sheet of glass was the only thing separating me from touching pieces of history.
What surprised me the most about the exhibition was how real it felt. Everything had its purpose; from the lighting to the artifacts and the reconstructed hallway where third class passengers made their way around the ship.
I, however, remember the hallway as the place where Rose rescued Jack from imprisonment just before the freezing ocean water filled the lower levels of the ship. I stood there for a few moments thinking to myself how neat it would be to see Jack and Rose running hand-in-hand toward me.
The highlight of my experience was getting to meet Mark Lach, creative director of the exhibition. After an initial introduction, I discovered that Lach visited the Titanic wreck site 12 years ago and was there to witness some of the last artifacts recovered from the ship.
He told me about his experience and what it was like to come face-to-face with Titanic two and a half miles below the ocean surface.
“It's really an incredible moment. You feel like a kid. You almost can't believe that you're seeing it in real life like you've seen it in videos and photographs. At the same time, there's nothing more emotional than this experience. You can see inside it as if it were a movie set, but it's the real thing. The human part becomes surreal as you see it.”
Lach said he didn't expect the trip to be so overwhelmingly emotional.
“I knew the stories and I knew the tragedies, but it didn't hit me until you actually come in contact with these real life pieces of history.”
At the end of the exhibition is a list of all the known passengers and crew on board the Titanic's maiden voyage. I glanced through the list of names, eagerly wanting to know if I survived or not.
My character, Miss Dorothy Winifred Gibson, survived.
Although there really is no “heart of the ocean” as the Hollywood film suggests, there is still part of me that believes it is real. For a Titanic fan like myself, the artifact exhibition is the closest I'll get to reliving the night when the “unsinkable” ship sank.