Titanic exhibit leaves lasting memories
Or at least Dr. Alice (Farnham) Leader did.
Dr. Leader was a passenger on the ill-fated Titanic ship, which we've all come to know through movies, history books and exhibits such as the one currently at the Center of Science and Industry (COSI).
I assumed her identity upon entering "Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition," when I was given a replica White Star Line boarding pass with her name, point of origin (Southampton), destination (New York) and date (April 10, 1912).
It wasn't until the end of the exhibition when I discovered whether she survived or perished in the cold Atlantic waters.
While I stood there, peering up at a wall-sized memorial listing the names of the 2,228 passengers and crew members who were aboard the Titanic, I couldn't help but think about the families who waited for word of their loved ones.
Imagine a time when most heard their news from word on the street, or at best, that day's newspaper edition. No television. No Internet. No immediacy.
Dr. Leader was one of only 705 saved.
As a passenger on the Titanic, the odds of survival were against her. As a first-class passenger, however, the odds were in her favor.
Nearly 62 percent of the first-class passengers were saved, while only 23 percent of the crew and 25 percent of the third -class passengers ever saw land again.
Walking away from the exhibit left me wanting to know more about this woman, someone who walked away from this tragedy.
The 49-year-old from New York practiced pediatric medicine, though she never had children. She retired from her medical practice in Maine after her husband died in 1908, and was on the Titanic the day it sank because she was returning from a holiday in Europe.
Dr. Leader was rescued in lifeboat eight, along with 26 other passengers. She was one of 10 physicians on the ship, though the only female doctor.
She shared cabin D-17 with Margaret Swift, her traveling companion. The two also were accompanied by Frederick R. and Marion Kenyon, who stayed in cabin D-21.
Dr. Leader, Mrs. Swift and Mrs. Kenyon were all rescued in the same lifeboat.
Mr. Kenyon, however, was never seen again. It's unclear whether he made it off the ship and died while waiting to be rescued, or if he went down with the liner as it sank to the bottom of the ocean. His body, if recovered, was never identified.
At age 31, my age, Marion Kenyon was a widower.
The story of the Titanic is fascinating, yet heartbreaking, and the exhibition at COSI that lays out the timeline of events that unraveled on that cold and frightening evening is stunning.
From a full-scale replica of the Grand Staircase to china etched with the logo of the elite White Star Line, the exhibit's artifacts allow visitors to take a step back in time when the ocean liner romanticized travel. Yet a clear distinction between first-class and third-class passengers may have meant a difference in life or death.
The stories of those passengers, including Dr. Alice Leader, are told through the hundreds of artifacts and stories collected over the years since the ship sank at 2:20 a.m. April 15, 1912.
Perhaps the most poignant moments of the exhibit, however, are the stories of the passengers and crew that are shared through costumed characters, videos, quotes that illuminate the walls and the boarding passes given to visitors.
It's these stories that allow us to connect to an exhibit such as this. As beautiful and breathtaking as some of these artifacts are, the stories behind them are the true treasures of the deep ocean.
On the day I visited the exhibit, a group of visitors gathered in silence around one of these quotes by second-class passenger Charlotte Collyer, who said, "'Women and children first!' Someone was shouting these last few words over and over again. ... They meant my own safety but they also meant the greatest loss I've ever suffered - the loss of my husband."
I think about the heroes that night, who must have known they were going to die, but instead urged others to board the lifeboats.
I think about the people who never even had a chance to survive, who never made it to the lifeboats, or watched as the last ones floated out to sea.
I think about Dr. Alice Leader, what she experienced that night and what she must have felt as she watched a tragedy unfold in front of her.
If you go:
If you go:
"Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition"
When: Through Sept. 6; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday (closed July 2)
Where: Center of Science and Industry (COSI), 333 W. Broad St., Columbus
Cost: Tickets include general admission; $23.75 adults (ages 13-59), $21.75 seniors (ages 60 and older), $16.75 youth (ages 2-12), and $8 for adults and $7 for youth COSI members.
FYI: (614) 228-2674 or www.cosi.org
Did you know?
* The first lifeboat left the ship with only 19 aboard, even though it could carry 65 passengers.
* Titanic's cargo included 75,000 pounds of fresh meat, 40,000 fresh eggs, and 20,000 bottles of beer and stout.
* The fourth funnel on Titanic was fake - it was believed that the fourth made the ship look grander and only carried vents from the engine room and from the huge coal stoves in the main kitchen.
* The room number 13 was not used on the ship.
* Millvina Dean, who was 2 months old at the time of the sinking, was the youngest passenger on board and the oldest survivor of Titanic. She died May 31, 2009 at the age of 97.
* Titanic was the largest ship built prior to 1912 and the largest moving object built by man.
* The cost of a first-class ticket to New York was $2,500, approximately $57,200 today. A third-class ticket was $40, which is about $900 today.
* There were only two bathtubs for the more than 700 third-class passengers aboard the ship.
* It takes more than 2-1/2 hours to reach the Titanic wreck site, located 963 miles northeast of New York and 453 miles southeast of Newfoundland. Each dive lasts about 12 to 15 hours.
* To date, RMS Titanic Inc. has conducted seven research and recovery expeditions to the wreck site and has recovered more than 5,500 objects.
Source: Premier Exhibitions, Inc.