Exhibits provide insight into Titanic aftermath

Steve Bartlett
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A life-vest and a piece of wood from the Titanic are part of an exhibit being launched at The Rooms this week.

Archivist Larry Dohey says the provenance of the life-preserver isn’t known, but there is a commonsense explanation as to how it got here.

“If we’re logical about it, what happened is when the (ship) Algerine went out, she retrieved a man’s body, (and this is where it came from),” explains the manager of collections and projects with The Rooms’ Provincial Archives Division.

The back story of the wood is not known either. Dohey says it’s a small cutting and the word “Titanic” is written on it.

Another item in the exhibit is the lightkeeper’s logbook from Cape Race.

While the log notes that the Titanic struck an iceberg, Dohey says it also shows how the lighthouse keeper — like many others — wasn’t getting much information from the Marconi station, even though it was just a stone’s throw away.

The wireless shack “would have been alive all night,” the archivist says, but little was being shared with the neighbouring building.

“(The log) would suggest no conversation happening, that the Marconi people have been told not to have any communications with anyone,” Dohey opines.

“The people in Cape Race, which should have been the first people to know what’s going on, are not in the loop at all.”

For those unable to view the Titanic artifacts in person, the provincial archives will also have a virtual exhibit at the www.therooms.ca. Dohey says it will include a number of telegrams written by the governor of Newfoundland at the time, Ralph Champneys-Williams.

Apparently, he became extremely frustrated by the lack of information being shared by Marconi’s employees.

“You can imagine (he) is sitting back there at the Colonial Building and these lowly Marconi workers are not sharing any information, but after that first night they were instructed by Marconi that all information is confidential. The governor was so frustrated he sent a telegraph to (the) Halifax Herald, asking for them to send information.”

The Rooms’ exhibits are, of course, not the only Titanic displays in St. John’s.

The Johnson Geo Centre has long had one, and according to its website, the facility has added a marine communications display and has two kiosks.

In addition to its exhibit, the centre is also showing Titanic-themed movies and has a public lecture series running until June.

There are also Titanic displays and storyboards at the Myrick Wireless Interpretation Centre in Cape Race.


Twitter: @SteveBartlett_

Organizations: The Rooms, Myrick Wireless Interpretation Centre

Geographic location: Cape Race, Newfoundland

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