After a tiring 4 day meeting in Singapore, I was lucky I had the time to visit the ArtScience Museum. I already saw the ad about Titanic exhibition on the flight to Singapore, so I was determined to miss it.
The exhibition shows many real artifacts recovered from the wreckage. The artifacts have been restored to its original state as possible, given all of them have been at the bottom of the sea for more than 80 years. You will see jewelry, shoes, plates, cutleries, bathroom ornaments, electric fans, and countless others objects. The exhibit is also designed as if you were INSIDE the ship – with corridors of First Class and Second Class cabins, down to the boiler room where crews must put coal continuously to power the ship. You will see inside the First Class cabin, looking at how rich people travel in style at that time (which is still very stylish!)
All in all, you will be at awe with the immersive experience, which makes the exhibition more than just “looking at stuff’.
But to me, more than all the objects or the painstaking details in the ship interior replica, is the human stories. The exhibit goes all the way to capture the stories of the passengers. And to me personally, this is the most powerful part of the whole exhibit. The Titanic tragedy is much more than just a story of a sinking ship. It is a testimony of human beings: our strength, our arrogance, our fallacies, our kindness….
Some of the human stories I remember from the exhibition…
1. Of human overconfidence in themselves. The Titanic was state of the art design of its days. The ship was commented upon as “practically unsinkable”. Now we know the limit of human’s knowledge. Especially against the power of nature.
2. Of being cheap. The original Titanic design has ENOUGH number of lifeboats to save ALL its passengers. Due to budget issue, the actual production cut down the number of lifeboats.
3. Of life’s bad luck. The captain, Captain Edward Smith apparently already decided to retire, before Titanic maker convinced him to be on Titanic just one last time as his last voyage.
4. Of life’s good luck. Two friends planned to travel on Titanic. On the departure day, one of them was kidnapped by gangsters. His friend proceeded to travel without knowing what happened, thinking the kidnapped friend would show up at the last minute. The ‘left behind’ friend was saved thanks to the kidnapping.
5. Of kindness to all. A Priest onboard helped calm the panicked passengers when boat was sinking. He also led people of all religions to pray for safety. He perished with the Titanic.
6. Of inseparable love. An old couple was traveling on the Titanic. When being evacuated, the wife was already in the lifeboat, when suddenly she decided she could not leave her husband on the ship (in sinking ship evacuation, women and children get to the boat first, while men stay onboard.) The wife said “All this time we have been together. I don’t want to be separated from him this time”, and she jumped back to the ship to join her husband. Both perished together.
It’s all these stories, combined with the artifacts, that made the exhibition such a moving experience. It made me think on Life. How it is full with ironies, tragedies, and how our lives and existence seem to be cruel joke. At the same time, it is also about how the human spirit can soar above, how we can show kindness to others, how strong a love between a husband and wife can be.
The wreckage of Titanic has been lying on the seabed for 90 years now. But the stories of the passengers remain. This is one of the best museum exhibitions I have ever been to. Very recommended.
(for details, check www.titanic.sg )