The hoopla surrounding the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic moves to Orlando this week with the opening of a traveling artifact exhibit from the big ship that includes a 3,000-pound section of the hull.
It's the second-largest piece of Titanic ever recovered, according to a news release about the exhibit, which opens Friday at Titanic - The Experience, the permanent attraction dedicated to the luxury liner's tragic story. (The "Big Piece" is the largest, a 17-ton section of the hull that was recovered during salvaging.)
Originally from the starboard side on C deck, the smaller hull section contains portholes that looked into the ship's dishwashing and china storage room. The hull piece was raised 12,500 feet from the ocean floor in 1998, where it been for 86 years after the fateful disaster in the early morning hours of April 15, 1912. It took two attempts to bring the piece to the surface.
The exhibition will also include 100 authentic artifacts from the Titanic's debris field, 31 which have never been seen before, said the news release. Among the never-before-seen items are a watch chain with pearls; oval portal frame; cooking pot; deck lamp; wine bottle with solidified substance; marble slab with cold water faucet and waste valve; and a cut crystal carafe with the flag of White Star Line, the company that owned the iconic ship.
Titanic - The Experience, which opened in the '90s, is located in a 20,000-square-foot space near Walt Disney World, Sea World and Universal Studios on International Drive. It's divided into 17 galleries that offer full-scale recreations of the ship's most famous rooms, including the grand staircase, first class parlor suite, boilers and promenade deck, where visitors can walk out and feel chilled air while gazing at the stars. Trained actors in period costume portray Titanic notables such as Capt. Smith and Molly Brown, sharing stories of the liner's passengers and crew during an hour-long guided journey aboard the ship.
An extensive underwater room is also showcased, displaying an 8-foot replica of the Titanic as it appears on the bottom of the Atlantic, as well as artifacts and historical treasures from some of the most prestigious private collections in the world and on display for the first time. There is also movie memorabilia from the blockbuster James Cameron film, Titanic.
Titanic - The Experience was recently acquired by Premier Exhibitions, which presents museum-quality touring exhibitions ("Bodies the Exhibition" is another of its big shows) and is the owner of RMS Titanic Inc., the only company permitted by law to recover objects from the wreck site of Titanic. Since 1987, RMS Titanic has conducted eight research expeditions to the wreck site, exclusively recovering and conserving more than 5,500 artifacts from the debris field of the wreck 2.5 miles beneath the North Atlantic.
Premier has been in the news lately because of its plans to auction 5,000 items from the ship on April 11. All of the items have to be purchased as a single lot, and the value has been estimated at $189 million. Some of the items that will be on display in Orlando will be part of that auction in April.
St. Petersburg enjoyed its own tour of some of the artifacts during a 1997 exhibition at the now-closed Florida International Museum. The exhibit drew more than 1 million visitors.
Plans were announced recently for another Titanic-related display in the lobby of the Mahaffey Theater, but no details have been released for the scheduled October event.