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Published: Thursday, 3/20/2003

Titanic exhibit has personal touch


Marion Meanwell got the chance to journey to her new planned home in America aboard the luxurious Titanic, but the English emigrant didn't survive its sinking 91 years ago.

But her whistle did.

Now, that whistle and nearly 300 other objects hauled up from the site of the legendary wreck are part of “Titanic: The Artifact Exhibit” at the New Detroit Science Center through Sept. 7.

The 9,000-square-foot exhibit, which began last month, tries to be more than a room full of objects encased in glass. It aims to depict what life was like aboard the ship and during the 1912 disaster, said its designer, Mark Lach.

“It started out with such great hope but ended in tragedy,” he said. “It's a story that still touches people today.”

The exhibit takes visitors through five chronological galleries, from the ship's construction to its demise.

Along the way, visitors can see an original D-deck door that was opened to help lower lifeboats into the icy water, as well as recreations of a third-class cabin, a first-class cabin, and the “Grand Staircase.” The staircase exhibit hosts one of the ship's original bronze cherubs.

In the recreated Verandah Caf , visitors can see dinnerware and even a waiters' pad from the ship. Then there's the “Iceberg Gallery,” which tells exactly what happened to down the 882-foot ship, complete with a real sheet of ice for visitors to touch.

The exhibition ends with a wall bearing the names of all 2,228 aboard. At the start of the exhibition, each visitor is given a “boarding pass” with the name of one of the passengers, and the wall shows which of the passengers were among the 1,500 who died.

Near this wall are the personal artifacts of some of the passengers, such as Ms. Meanwell. The 63-year-old had planned to cross the Atlantic on the steamer Majestic but because of a coal strike was given a ticket on the Titanic.

Divers in the past decade discovered her alligator-skin bag among the items 21/2 miles below the ocean surface, including the whistle and a magnifying glass that's now on display.

Admission is $16.95 for adults, $13.95 for seniors over 60, $11.95 for children 2-12, and free for those under 2. The center, just southwest of the junction of I-75 and I-94, is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. week days and 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekends.

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