My quick jaunt to London last week ended in a visit to the Titanic exhibition at the O2 Arena. It’s such a relief to see an exhibition in my native tongue of English: I don’t miss out on half the stories through not knowing a couple of words, which is often the case when I’m trying to read exhibition notes in French. I took the opportunity to drink in every single piece of written English — something I’m sure I wouldn’t have consciously done years ago. Doing so proved worthwhile because I read stories about passengers aboard the ill-faited ocean liner that years earlier I probably would have walked past to get to the next object display.
The artifacts themselves were fascinating thanks to the stories behind them being explained so well. Some tiny perfume bottles were recovered from the wreckage intact (and left open in a glass box with holes so we could smell their contents): their owner was a perfume dealer trying to make his fortune in America. Lots of other artifacts were just as interesting, and the personal stories were heartwarming and saddening at the same time. A piece of the boat’s metal could be touched, as well as a wall of ice to help us understand why so many who survived the initial sinking then died due to the freezing temperature of the salt water.
Sometimes, however, it’s probably better not to understand all the words. Apart from being given a boarding pass complete with a real passenger’s name on the back (you could check the board at the end to see if your passenger survived: mine did but my friend’s did not), the gift shop at the end of the exhibition just seemed to be cashing in on dead people. Okay, you could say the whole exhibition was doing that, but at least it was educational. There was no way I was going to buy a book of recipes served on the Titanic, nor would I relish eating a meal from it. Maybe that’s just me?