Titanic exhibit features detailed re-creations of ship

By Darlene Donloe

Contributing Writer

The tragedy that befell the Titanic on April 15, 1912, is a dark, interesting, but mostly sad tale.

On that fateful day, which was four days into the ship’s maiden voyage from Southampton, England to New York City, more than 1,500 passengers lost their lives after the Titanic collided with an iceberg on April 14, 1912, in the icy waters of the North Atlantic.

The haunting story of the Titanic is told in “Titanic: The Exhibition” currently taking place at the Beverly Event Venue in Los Angeles.

Everything you’ve ever wanted to know about the Titanic can be found in this one-hour, self-guided interactive experience that allows attendees to step inside recreations of the ship’s interior.

It’s been more than a century since the most famous maritime disaster occurred, and yet the Titanic remains the most well-known ship in American history.

British Naval Officer Edward John Smith was captain of the Titanic. As an officer, he joined the White Star Line in 1880, beginning a career in the British Merchant Navy. Smith was the master of numerous White Star Line vessels. He went down with the ship.

In what can only be called a foreshadowing, Smith was once quoted as saying, “I never saw a wreck, I have never been wrecked, nor have I ever been in any predicament that threatened to end in disaster.”

The quote appears on a wall as part of the exhibition.

The sinking of the ship, which was regarded as “practically unsinkable,” continues to be explored in films, shows and exhibitions.

This exhibition starts with photos of actual passengers aboard the ship.

There is also controversial information about J. Bruce Ismay, the chairman and managing director of the White Star Line who made the critical decision to limit the number of lifeboats on the Titanic to 20 because more than that would crowd the first class deck — obstructing the view. He survived by boarding one of the lifeboats, but was branded a coward for the remainder of his life.

Attendees can immerse themselves in the stories of the Titanic’s passengers, see hundreds of artifacts and discover the tale of the design, creation, launch, maiden voyage and tragedy of the largest and most luxurious ship in the world at the time.

Those visiting the exhibit can step inside the vast, beautiful recreations of the ship’s interior, hear music from the era and plunge into the story of a real passenger whose boarding pass they received at the beginning of the tour. 

Visitors can walk through incredibly detailed re-creations of the ship’s dock, staircase and interior complete with a starry night sky scene.

“This is nice,” said Eric Johnstone, an accountant in Los Angeles. “I came to learn more about the Titanic. Most of what I know, I learned from the James Cameron film. I wanted to learn more.”

Also included are more than 300 artifacts that survived the sinking of the Titanic and items from her sister ships (the Olympic and the Britannic).

Visitors who are made to feel they are part of the story can walk above a sea floor complete with sand and broken artifacts in the Discovery Gallery.

There are several actual ice warnings posted. There is one at 10:55 p.m. on April 14, 1912 from the S.S. Californian: which reads “We are stopped and surrounded by ice.”

An eerie timeline of The Last of Titanic’s Wireless Transmissions is also posted. At 12:17 a.m. on April 15, 1912, the Titanic sent a transmission to any ship. 

“Require immediate assistance. Come at once. We struck an iceberg. Sinking.” At 12:25 a.m. the R.M.S. Carpathia responded: “Shall I tell my captain? Do you require assistance?”  

At 12:26 a.m. the Titanic replies to Carpathia: “Yes, come quick!” By 2:17 a.m. the Titanic’s power is lost. The Titanic is silent.

A replica of an iceberg, at zero degrees Celsius, is also part of the exhibition. The water in the North Atlantic on that day would have been two degrees colder. Attendees are asked to see how long they can hold their hand inside of the iceberg. Those observed barely made it 30 seconds.

Also included are movie prop memorabilia from James Cameron’s 1997 movie, “Titanic,” starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet.

“This is great,” said John Smithson, a marketing executive in Los Angeles. “I’m still looking at everything. There’s a lot to see. So far, so good. It’s definitely worth a visit.”

Posted on the wall is personal information on some of the passengers, some who survived and others who did not, including a seldom talked about Black man on board named Joseph, and his wife, Juliette Laroche, and their two young daughters, Simonne, 3, and Louise, 1, who were bound for Haiti to live with Joseph’s family. 

Joseph, a native Haitian and engineer, managed to get his wife and daughters safely aboard a lifeboat but then stepped back into the crowd of husbands left aboard. Laroche, who died in the tragic shipwreck was, reportedly, the only Black man on board the Titanic.

Particularly poignant in the exhibition is a huge wall listing the passenger manifest which included first, second and third class “lost passengers” and “saved passengers,” and lost and saved crew members.

There were 891 men and women crew members.

Of the 703 survivors taken aboard the Carpathia, 316 were women, 338 were men, and 52 were children. Three out of every four immigrant passengers perished in the wreck.

There were 201 first-class passengers saved out of 324; 119 second-class passengers saved out of 285, 181 out of 708 third-class passengers survived and 212 out of 891 officers and crew were saved.

Visitors who, at the beginning of the tour were given a boarding pass containing the name of an actual passenger on the Titanic, could check whether that particular passenger was “lost” or “survived” the disaster by checking the wall.

The actual wreckage of the Titanic was found after 1 a.m. on Sept. 1, 1985, under more than 12,400 feet of water. One of the Titanic’s boilers was identified, confirming the wreck had been found. 

The ship was found by American oceanographer and marine geologist, Robert Ballard, 73 years after it sank. As suspected, the ship had split in half.

Titanic: The Exhibition, is open at the Beverly Event Venue, 4327 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles. Admission ranges from $23 to $68.90; through Dec. 31, 2023.

Darlene Donloe is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers who covers South Los Angeles. She can be reached at ddonloe@gmail.com.