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Get a boarding pass, take the journey at MAC’s Titanic exhibition

From the warm luxury of a re-created first-class cabin to an eerie, blue-tinted room housing a block of ice, the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture’s “Titanic” exhibition tries to transport visitors onto the doomed ocean liner.

Since its opening in mid-October, “Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition” has attracted 47,500 visitors, executive director Wesley Jessup said.

“It’s been the most popular exhibition in the history of the museum,” Jessup said.

The exhibit takes visitors through three distinct pieces of the Titanic’s journey, where lighting and music set the stage. The first rooms set the scene, with information about the ocean liner’s construction (the ship took 10,000 men three years to complete) and the migrants who commonly crossed the Atlantic Ocean shortly after the turn of the 20th century.

From there, visitors get a feel for life on the ship. A first-class cabin room sets the stage for the ship’s luxury: A large bed, chaise lounge and table with two place settings provided rich travelers with better amenities than many top hotels at the time.

Nearby is a third-class dormitory, where four working-class people, segregated by gender, would share a single room. Even with the crowded rooms, the furnishings were nicer than second-class on many liners at the time, and laborers got to experience electricity – something few had at home.

And then there’s the iceberg.

It’s a massive block of ice you can touch in one of the exhibit’s final rooms, which adds a literal chill to panels describing the ship’s fateful collision.

At the start of their journey, visitors receive a boarding pass with information about a real Titanic passenger, including their destination, reason for the voyage and class they traveled in.

The museum has about two dozen options, from Sarah Chapman, a newlywed English immigrant heading to Spokane, to Helene Østhy, the 22-year-old daughter of a jewelry magnate returning from a European vacation.

In the final room of the exhibit, visitors are confronted with a wall listing every passenger on the ship, sorted by their class, as well as the crew.

“Women and children first” may have been the refrain on the ship, but class mattered. In first class, where a single ticket cost the equivalent of $57,000 today, the survival rate was 61 percent. Immigrants and laborers didn’t fare as well: Just one-quarter of steerage passengers, and 23 percent of the crew, made it.

Museum visitors are encouraged to find their passenger on the wall.

“It’s a cool way to do the exhibition because I think it engages people more,” Jessup said.

When his sons went through, they insisted on going through a second time after learning their passengers had died.

With six weeks left, Jessup said the MAC is expecting crowds. He encourages visitors to buy tickets online at northwestmuseum.org so they can reserve a specific time and skip the line.


 

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