Titanic celebrates 100 years at the bottom of the sea

New Atlanta exhibit opens this week

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April 15, 2012, marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the most famous luxury ship ever to sail – the RMS Titanic.

I've always had a love of the Titanic, for about as long as I can remember. I think it may have started with a book I had as a child that came with an audio cassette. The book detailed how the ship was built and ended with it sinking. The cassette was a small audio drama of several characters who were aboard when the iceberg was hit – a formula many others have emulated over the years.

This was how I learned many of the little unique features of the ship – maritime law at the time did not require enough lifeboats for everyone on board; the fourth funnel was added simply as decoration and served no purpose.

Over the years I watched may documentaries and movies and television shows about the famous ship.

A scene from the movie Ghostbusters 2 caught my attention as a child and I still remember the mixture of awe and fear when the New York mayor is informed Titanic just arrived at the docks, 72 years too late. The short scene showed a ghost-ship Titanic, complete with devastatingly huge hole in its bow, and thousands of well-dressed ghosts silently disembarking. “Better late than never,” quipped a dockhand.

More than 1,500 people died in the disaster, one of the most devastating in maritime history. Among those who died were some of the most famous tycoons of the time - John Jacob Astor IV, the namesake of the Astoria Hotel in New York City; Macy's founder Isidor Straus, and actress Dorothy Gibson. Banker J.P. Morgan was scheduled to be on the ship, but canceled at the last minute.

Perhaps a greater horror was avoided, as the Titanic carried only about half its possible passenger capacity.

Perhaps the single greatest reason for the glorification of the Titanic is how it perfectly encapsulates the Industrial era's hubris, that science and technology could overcome all obstacles. For an “unsinkable” ship to founder on its maiden voyage is the stuff of fiction.

So imagine my excitement when I heard a Titanic exhibit was coming to Atlantic Station, to coincide with the centennial of the sinking.

Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition features more than 200 artifacts, 100 recently conserved and displayed for the first time. There's even one of the bulkhead doors which led into the first class rooms. Through these conservation efforts, the exhibition will unveil new findings that help piece together untold stories of the Titanic.

(By the way, Atlantic Station is owned by the same guys who just bought Prospect Park – now Avalon. What are the chances North Fulton might see some exhibition space in the new development?)

Upon entering Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition, visitors will be drawn back in time to April 1912, when the ship embarked on its maiden voyage. They’ll receive replica boarding passes, assume the role of a passenger and follow a chronological journey through life on Titanic – from the ship’s construction to the modern day efforts to conserve the wreckage.