Welcome to Titanic
7/26/2016 4:45:11 p.m. - Hobbs, NM.
[Story by Hobbs News Sun, July 26, 2016 by Dorothy Fowler]
I died with the ship when it sank on April 12,1915, either from drowning or from hypothermia caused by prolonged exposure to the 28-degree Fahrenheit water. I learned my fate Monday at the last stop along the route of the Titanic exhibit that opens to the public at 9 a.m. Thursday at the Western Heritage Museum and Cowboy Hall of Fame on the New Mexico Junior College Campus.
On Monday, before that opening, media-types got a look at the hundreds of artifacts gleaned from the debris field near the two pieces of the Titanic that still lie on the ocean floor. They -- like everyone who sees the exhibit will be -- were greeted at the entrance with a boarding pass granting permission to board the Royal Mail Ship Titanic as it sets forth on its first and last voyage from the port at South Hampton, England, to New York.
Printed on the back of the pass is information about who you are, how old you are, where you are from and whether you are traveling alone. The name printed on the back is not really yours, of course. It's the name of a passenger on the ill-fated ship. You won't know whether you survived until the last stop of the exhibit.
Representatives of businesses and individuals who contributed to bringing the Titanic exhibit to Hobbs will get a preview tonight from 5-7 p.m. It's a preview that's by invitation only. Members of the museum will get their preview Wednesday night from 5-7 p.m.
Marc Lach, an early designer of the exhibit will be on hand to talk to the VIPs and museum members about the show and to give a first-hand account of diving in a pressurized submarine to a point where he could see the bow of the ship and the debris field.
He was present when more than 100 perfume vials were brought to the surface and when they were opened.
"They were in the sample case of a perfume salesman who was traveling to New York," Lach said. "When they were opened, the room was filled with sweet odors."
The passenger whose name was on the back of the pass I received was the White Star Line's chief designer, Thomas Andrews, Jr. He made it a point to go on the maiden voyage of each new ship, hoping to observe any flaws that he could correct in future designs.
He, of course, did not get to make any corrections, but as a result of the tragedy, ship builders were required to put enough life boats for every passenger on board, and ship radios were required to be left on day and night with an operator in attendance.
Monday, museum staff directors and maintenance people were busy tweaking the exhibit, which was put in place by the owners of the exhibit during the last two weeks. The hundreds of artifacts on display are safely encased in quarter inch plexiglass cases that allow visitors to marvel at the items that survived more than 75 years under water at a depth of more than three miles.
Darrell Beauchamp, executive director the museum, said the artifacts, although protected from being touched, are nevertheless fragile.
"We don't want people taking pictures of the artifacts with their cameras or their phones and we don't want people using the flashlights on their phones, either. These objects are too valuable to risk any kind of damage that might be caused by exposure to flashes," Beauchamp said.
Visitors will keep their boarding passes for scrapbooks and dozens of items will be available for sale in the museum gift shop. In addition, every visitor will have the option of having a picture made with a backdrop of his choice -- on the grand staircase, below the propellers, beside a portion of the hull -- for $10.
Beauchamp said that the entry fee of $5 is the result of the generosity of the J. F Maddox Foundation, the City of Hobbs and New Mexico Junior College.
"Other museums have charged an "up fee," he said. "In Albuquerque, they charged the usual fee to get into the museum plus another $16. Here, there is no other fee. And, as long as you don't leave the museum, you can go through the exhibit again. If someone with sees the perfume vials and you missed them, you can go back and see what he's talking about."
The museum has already taken several reservations for group tours, including several school tours. Teachers, club program chairpersons and other group leaders should make reservations now for such tours.
More information about the Titanic exhibition is available at 575-392-6730.