Fascination of Titantic Proportions at the National Geographic Museum

An 18-foot model of the fated ship


With all of the hoopla over the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic a few weeks ago, Owen became one of the obsessed. The intrigue began when he saw promos for some of the Titanic shows airing on Nat Geo Wild (his favorite channel these days), so we recorded Rebuilding Titanic and have watched it at least 10 times since.

Needless to say, it’s been on my to-do list for awhile to take Owen to the Titanic: 100 Year Obsession exhibit at the National Geographic Museum. So, when he had a day off from school earlier this week, we headed over to feed his fascination (mine, too, actually… and not just because of my unremitting Leo crush).

It was apparent as we walked in that it was going to be one dynamic exhibit.  Covering the ship’s complete history, from construction to completion, its demise to the search for remains, its discovery to continued exploration, Titanic is presented in a variety of interesting displays. Some are as simple as tacked up documents — a letter confirming a voyage on the fated ship or a first-class dinner menu — while others use modern technology to tell her story, making for an engaging and interactive experience.

Past meets present as iPads display old photo images

What’s especially interesting is how it’s all integrated throughout the exhibit.You can view old video footage of the ship and photos on an iPad with a timeline of Titanic’s history.  Old photographs of the ship’s interiors and a wall adorned to emulate the first-class decor are displayed in the same area as a video of Titanic director James Cameron discussing the ship.

Details of the Titanic model

A model of the bow as it looks now

Larger displays include an 18-foot model of Titanic, complete with tiny lounge chairs on deck; replicas of a lifeboat and life jackets that were used in the movie; a reconstructed Marconi Room, where the ship’s communications took place; and a model of the bow discovered on the ocean floor. All were designed with remarkable detail.

Sending messages

Owen particularly enjoyed the interactive displays. A Morse Code station, back-to-back desks set up with systems to transmit signals included a list of codes that we could actually send for the other person to decipher.  We also spent a good amount of time at a digital interactive table searching for the ships ruins, then walking along an image of the ship’s bow projected onto the floor, each step highlighting 3-D images of an area.

Searching for artifacts

There are some eerie parts to the exhibit, too (not that a whole exposition dedicated to 100 years of obsession over a sunken ship and thousands of lost lives isn’t kind of eerie in itself).  To learn about how the communications officer ignored messages about icebergs from other ships because he was sending telegrams for first-class passengers was disturbing, as was the timeline of distress calls after disaster struck.

A short video featuring Bob Ballard, an oceanographer who was part of the team that found the ship’s remains, chronicles the search and discovery of the sunken vessel.  And later, James Cameron, who has continued to conduct his own explorations, walks viewers through a digital depiction of the ship’s final moments in another video at the end of the exhibit.

A video about the ship’s final moments

On the way out, a wall is lined with movie posters of all the films about the Titanic.  And the “parting shot” is a ship’s bow, where guest could climb aboard for their own “King of the World” moment. Owen and I decided to skip it; somehow, it seemed more apropos for Leo and Kate.

Titanic: 100 Year Obsession is on exhibit at the National Geographic Museum through September 9.  The exhibition is included in museum admission: $8/adults, $6/members & military, $4/ages 5-12, free for children under 5. The museum is open 10am – 6pm daily.



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