By Mary Bowerman, USA TODAY Network
A delicate pair of cotton gloves, a man’s left shoe; seemingly mundane items such as these are just a few of the artifacts that piece together the stories of passengers who traveled aboard the ill-fated Titanic.
Seven paper and textile items, some of the “rarest Titanic artifacts ever recovered,” will be on display for the last time at Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition, at the Luxor Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, beginning April 15. The items will be displayed alongside the casino's permanent collection of Titanic artifacts before they are returned to a conservation faculty in July.
While there are hundreds of glass, metal and ceramic items from the wreck site, textiles and paper items are fairly rare, in part because they deteriorate quickly in the ocean, according to Alexandra Klingelhofer, vice president of collections for Premier Exhibitions Inc.
“The paper or textile items that were recovered survived because they were inside suitcases,” Klingelhofer said. “The tanned leather of the suitcases tended to protect them."
Klingelhofer said the suitcases are akin to “time capsules,” which give researchers a “sense of the person who owned the suitcase.”
A waiter's pad page from the Titanic's à la carte restaurant, is just one of the delicate items that will be on display during a 3-month engagement at Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition at Luxor Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. (Photo: Premier Exhibitions)
“It’s like getting reacquainted with someone, the things that were important to them,” said Klingelhofer, who oversees the care of Premiere's Titanic collection.
Among the soon-to-be retired items are a waiter’s pad page, which belonged to a server at the ship’s à la carte restaurant, and a declaration of intent to seek U.S. citizenship signed by a German immigrant, who perished with over 1,500 others when the ship sank in 1912.
A men's leather shoe fragment will soon be on display at the Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition, the largest permanent exhibition of Titanic artifacts, at Luxor Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas starting on April 15. (Photo: Premier Exhibitions)
The Titanic wreckage was discovered nearly 2.5 miles below the ocean surface in 1985 by a team led by oceanographers.
Between 1987 and 2004, seven recovery missions collected items ranging from plates to luggage and other personal items scattered along the ocean floor, according to Mark Lach, creative director of Premier Exhibitions.
A pair of pajamas recovered from a suitcase. (Photo: Premier Exhibitions)
“When the Titanic sank, it broke in half at the surface and fell apart,” Lach said. “It was like the contents of a city spilling out, the things in side started to fall away and fall around the large ship.”
Lach was able to see the Titanic in person, on one of the recovery missions in 2000, when many of the items on display were recovered from the debris field surrounding the ship.
A declaration of intent to seek U.S. citizenship signed by a German immigrant, who perished with over 1500 others when the ship sank. (Photo: Premier Exhibitions)
He says over 100 years later, the story of the Titanic continues to resonate with many people because of themes still applicable today, like overconfidence in technology.
The ship that was “unsinkable,” sank four days after it embarked on its maiden voyage.
A White Star Line receipt for “ene canary in cage." The receipt was recovered from Marion Meanwell’s alligator purse. (Photo: Premier Exhibitions)
“Something about the story speaks to people all over the world, of the uncertainty of our fate,” he said. “Especially with technology, when we think we have a handle on our own we realize that is not the case and how fragile life can be.”
A pair of gloves found in a suitcase near the Titanic. (Photo: Premier Exhibitions)