Visual Arts

Exhibit of Titanic artifacts includes tactile element that will leave visitors cold

Project manager Jack Stiegler, left, and master carpenter Gordon Cameron set up last month for the Titanic exhibit that opens Friday at the Lexington Center Museum and Gallery.
Project manager Jack Stiegler, left, and master carpenter Gordon Cameron set up last month for the Titanic exhibit that opens Friday at the Lexington Center Museum and Gallery. Lexington Herald-Leader

Organizers of Titanic: The Artifact Exhibit, opening a three-month run Friday at the Lexington Center Museum and Gallery, promise that attendees will be able to feel the chill passengers experienced as the ill-fated ocean liner sank into the frigid North Atlantic Ocean more than 100 years ago.

There is a touchable iceberg in a temperature-controlled room to show exhibit-goers just how cold it was to be floating in the frigid ocean waters that fateful night.

The RMS Titanic was a British passenger liner, the largest boat then afloat in the world, that famously sank on April 15, 1912, during its maiden voyage in the North Atlantic after colliding with an iceberg en route from Southampton, England, to New York City. The accident killed more than 1,500 people.

The exhibit is organized by RMS Titanic Inc., the exclusive steward of Titanic artifacts. Currently there are Titanic exhibitions in Buena Park, Calif.; Las Vegas; Orlando, Fla.; Atlanta; Albuquerque; Cleveland; and Paris, France. Although the display of artifacts varies by location, each site has the iceberg for patrons to touch.

Not touchable are the artifacts themselves, which were pulled from the deep after the wreck of the Titanic was discovered in 1985 and have since been conserved. They are displayed in specially designed cases that control temperature, humidity and light levels.

Although 5,500 artifacts have been recovered from the Titanic, the hostile ocean environment eventually will destroy those remaining — besieged by bacteria, sediment, salt and acids.

"The greatest thing about the exhibit overall is that it allows you to experience it in multiple ways — with your eyes, with your ears," Lexington Center exhibit coordinator Krista Greathouse said.

She suggested five don't-miss items in Titanic: The Artifact Exhibit:

Re-creation of a first-class cabin. Some Titanic passengers traveled in splendor, with 1912 luxuries including telephones, heaters, special lamps designed not to tip over, and table fans.

Re-creation of a third-class hallway and cabin. Meanwhile, some Titanic passengers traveled in a no-frills equivalent of coach. In third class, passengers slept six to a cabin, and there were two bathtubs for more than 700 passengers.

Iceberg. The exhibit's re-creation of the iceberg that sank the Titanic is more than 7 feet tall and "gives you an understanding of how cold it was in the water," Greathouse said. The iceberg is in a temperature-controlled area, and visitors are urged to press their palms against it to get an idea of how cold it was in the water that night: about 28 degrees.

The mystery of your boarding pass. Each person entering the exhibit will be given a slip with the name of a Titanic passenger on it. Did he or she live or die? The passenger's fate is learned at a memorial wall at the end of the exhibit.

The seabed. Accompanying the actual artifacts are photos of them as they were found on the ocean floor, 12,500 feet below the water's surface. "One in particular is a rack of plates on the ocean floor," Greathouse said. "And then you see that rack of plates in the artifacts."


'Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition'

When: Oct. 5-Jan. 26. Museum hours: 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Sun.-Thu.; 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Fri., Sat.

Where: Lexington Center Museum and Gallery, second floor, Lexington Center, 430 W. Vine St.

Tickets: $12 adults, $10 ages 55 and older, $9 ages 3-13. Available at (859) 233-3535, or Ticketmaster, 1-800-745-3000 or

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