Connor and I took BART into the city, and then walked the short distance to the Metreon (a bit of an adventure, since I'd not bothered to look at a map before we left home; all I knew was that I needed to get off at Powell Street, and um, from there I had no idea. Fortunately, my nose for direction didn't fail me, and we went the right way on our first try). Connor was literally squealing with excitement as we approached the Metreon (which is a big dining/cinema complex), and he saw the ads for the exhibit:
Soon, we'd made our way upstairs and were on our way inside. I'd expected this to be very similar to the exhibit we'd seen on the Queen Mary, and in many ways it was, but this one is much more impressive. Well, let me qualify that a bit. Honestly, I think seeing the actual artifacts - dinner plates and eye glasses and hats and things - was more intense at that first exhibit. That's when I felt the full impact of seeing things that had gone down with that ship, and then sat two-and-a-half miles under the ocean for ~70 years. That part was more powerful for me the first time around. Not that the artifacts weren't interesting this time - they certainly were. But I wasn't affected in the same way yesterday afternoon.
What was really spectacular here was the presentation. While the overall atmosphere of the exhibits was similar, this one had a lot of reconstructions that the smaller exhibit lacked. As we entered the exhibit, we walked into a hallway made to look exactly like one of the corridors in first class. A bit further on, there were mocked-up first and third class cabins, as well as the first class dining room. It was spectacular seeing these gorgeous rooms, and it was kind of spooky too - it was all too easy to imagine that we really were on the Titanic (especially after having been on the QM recently, so we've got a good idea about the scope of a ship like this). But the most impressive of these reconstructions was a to-scale replica of the grand staircase. O.M.G. Walking into the room and seeing it there, all beautifully carved wood and gold leaf - absolutely stunning. I think this was Connor's favourite part of the exhibit (although, really, I think he loved the whole thing). We sat in that room for several minutes, just drinking in the atmosphere. I could almost see ghostly figures dressed in turn-of-the-century clothes coming down the stairs. (Or maybe I was just having flashbacks to the Cameron film :D). It was very, very impressive. While we were in there, I also enjoyed watching people come into the room for the first time - seeing a face light up, and mouth drop open with a quiet gasp (which was exactly my own reaction when I first walked into the room).
Even so, there was something I found FAR more impressive than this beautiful replica staircase. For me, by far the most interesting and amazing part of the exhibit was a 15-ton piece of the ship's hull, brought up from the bottom of the ocean in 1998. Another serious O.M.G. moment. There was just something about seeing this piece of the actual ship that just brought the whole thing together for me in a new way. It was huge - about 30 feet long, and 16 feet high, but there was a diagram showing what a relatively small section it was, when considering the size of the entire ship. Plus, there was something almost surreal about standing there looking at an actual piece of the TITANIC. The sign even told us which passengers had stayed in the cabins in that part of the ship. Definitely surreal. It's a story that's gone way beyond being just historical, and is truly legendary - almost mythical - and yet, there I was, looking at a piece of it. Really cool - fascinating, sobering and exciting, all at the same time. Actually, I'm finding it hard to put into words just how it felt to see a piece of that ship.
And, no less moving was a far smaller artifact. Another piece of the hull, but this one only about a foot long. What made this so special, though, is that we were allowed to touch it. Connor and I were able to place our fingers on part of the Titanic. Another moment I'm not sure I can describe. I was incredibly moved, and I know Connor was too - he was almost in tears as he slowly and mindfully placed his finger on that hunk of metal. Then, he took his hand away, and sort of hugged the whole display case - It was a very special moment for both of us.
There's so much emotion for me wrapped up in this whole thing. It's strange, because I've become as fascinated with the history of this ship as Connor has, and we're really enjoying ourselves, but at the same time it puts both of us through an emotional rollercoaster on a regular basis. There's excitement and interest, and a a love of finding out new facts and discussing various theories, and that part is great fun. But it's also inescapable that eventually, you're brought back to the hard truth that more than 1,500 people lost their lives that night. More of them should have been saved, and if even one tiny thing in all the many variables that contributed to that disaster had been different, perhaps ALL of them would have lived. Every film we watch, every book we read, seeing an exhibit like this - at some point there is that moment when it hits me again, OMG all these people died, and I want to cry. (And often, I do. Connor does too, sometimes). There are times that it's almost enough to make me want to put this whole thing aside, and move on to something more cheerful. But it really is fascinating on so many levels. So, I think Connor and I are going to keep on with our study of the Titanic. I think we'll also go see the exhibit again before it closes in January. It really is that good.
Here's Connor at the entrance (the only place where we were allowed to take photos):
And for those of you who live in the Bay Area (or any of the other places where a similar exhibit is on display - Miami and Las Vegas, and maybe other places as well), I really would recommend going to see it. It's truly amazing.
Here's a link to the website of the company which puts on the exhibits. They have photos of a lot of artifacts. You do have to register at the site to view them, but it's fast and free. So, if you're interested in this stuff, have a look. :)