Very human stories
Very few tragedies have touched us like the sinking of RMS Titanic. Sent to the bottom of the North Atlantic Ocean on April 15, 1912, the largest ocean liner of its day took with it 1,500 souls. Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition at Luxor provides an in-depth look at those lives with remarkably emotional results.
The exhibition is overseen by Alexandra Klingelhofer, executive director of collections for RMS Titanic, Inc. As the exclusive steward of the ship and her contents, the organization’s official role is to conserve, monitor and protect items that have been recovered. But it’s the human story behind those artifacts that makes their work so important.
For Klingelhofer, the personal experiences of the passengers and crew are a driving force. “It’s a family-oriented and educational story. It’s one for the ages and it’s been inspiring people for over a hundred years. It’s one worth telling and one worth learning about.”
To that end, extensive research is done to uncover the secrets behind each treasure. Personal items like shaving accessories, jewelry, playing cards and shoes are displayed with dishes, lamps and hardware from the ship itself. “Every artifact has a story—it’s just a question of finding it. Through research, I try to link them to the real world of the past and make them relevant to the present.”
Sometimes when tracing backward, Klingelhofer has been swept up in a passenger’s experiences. A trunk of personal effects belonging to German immigrant Franz Pulbaum is a good example.
“We have cards that his friends sent him saying, ‘How are you doing? You must be drinking all the wine in the world because you’re in France.’ You get a nice picture of him. He’s a regular guy, he probably smoked, he dyed his hair ... he planned to become a U.S. citizen. Sadly, he perished, but his belongings still tell his story.”
Klingelhofer’s background as a former museum curator assists her in uncovering an object’s story, but preserving the item is just as vital. Each material (paper, glass, metal, leather, wood, etc.) must be restored and protected in a unique way. Then it’s cataloged before being stored or exhibited.
Of the four permanent exhibitions overseen by RMS Titanic, the Luxor location is by far the largest. Visitors encounter a re-creation of the Grand Staircase and can take a starlit stroll on the Promenade Deck. There’s a scale model of the wreckage and debris field and even a miniature iceberg that you can touch.
The attraction’s tall ceilings and dry desert air also make it possible to display The Big Piece. This enormous section of the starboard hull, the biggest artifact yet recovered, can only be seen in Las Vegas.
Not everything that has been discovered is ready to be brought back. The last recovery expedition in 2004 left countless articles behind. They’re waiting for a time when advancements in conservation and restoration make it safe to return them to the light. Until then, those stories of the RMS Titanic will remain in the darkness, two and a half miles down on the ocean floor.
Luxor, 10 a.m.-10 p.m. daily, last admission at 9 p.m., $32, $30 seniors at least 65 years of age, $29 Nevada residents and $24 children ages 4-12, free children 3 and younger, special group rates are available. 702.262.4400