Titanic Yields Treasure Of History

Unclaimed luggage sits outside the baggage claim area at the Denver International Airport on Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2006. Bags are still sitting in the airport long after the passengers, who were marooned at the facility by last week's blizzard, have moved on to their next stop.
AP
The Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago is extending its Titanic: The Exhibition though Oct. 9 in order to feature newly recovered items, including the main wheel and stand and bridge telegraph. A team from RMS Titanic, Inc., completed its sixth expedition to the wreck site last month.

The 25,000-square-foot exhibit in Chicago includes more than 400 artifacts, recreations of a first-class stateroom, third-class cabin, engine room and grand staircase as well as a 13-ton piece of Titanic's hull. So far, about 750,000 people have passed through the exhibit.

Mark Lach, the exhibit's lead designer, got to go along as part of the team that dived on the latest recovery mission. It was his first time being a part of the dive experience.

"You know, some things don't live up to the hype. This was over the top for me," he told CBS News Early Show Anchor Bryant Gumbel. "I…was very excited and felt privileged and honored."

The month-long expedition cost $5 million and came under fire for its intent to retrieve artifacts from the interior of the wreck, specifically: historic objects, money, gold and jewelry from the mailroom, first class cabins and officer's quarters.

Robert Ballard, who originally found the wreck site, joins the Explorer's Club of New York in arguing that it's possible that the remains of hundreds of people are intact and that they should not be disturbed.

RMS Titanic abided by a court order not to retrieve items from the interior, cut any structures from the ship, or sell any of the artifacts. The RMS Titanic crew has obeyed the orders, but also makes it perfectly clear that they had no intention of selling the artifacts and told one newspaper that "if objects such as the…anchor aren't removed soon, they will be lost or destroyed when the Titanic finally collapses."

Says Lach, "Certainly a decision has to be made which artifacts like this or any artifacts of historical significance should be brought up and saved and conserved or lost forever. I know from my experience as a designer, to see people come in, see the artifacts, let the emotion of the true story of Titanic touch them… I want them to feel the emotion of being on the Titanic. We re-created rooms in this show. That's important. More importantly, I think we need to honor those who lost their lives. I think this is the best way of doing that."

RMS Titanic, Inc., was granted exclusive salvor-in-possession rights to the wreck of the Titanic by a United States Federal Court in 1994 and was confirmed again in 1996. The court award includes the exclusive rights to own objects recovered from the Titanic wreck site and the exclusive rights to photograph Titanic.

During five research and recovery expeditions conducted in 1987, 1993, 1994, 1996, and 1998, RMS Titanic, Inc. has recovered nearly 5,000 artifacts from the wreck site.