All Aboard! An Immersive Titanic Experience Is Sailing Into Chicago

A mammoth show brings together more than 300 artifacts and interactive elements.

Titanic: The Exhibition. Image courtesy of Imagine Exhibitions.

Now open in Chicago, Imagine Exhibitions’s “Titanic: The Exhibition” is promising to take its visitors on quite the voyage. The show unfolds a journey through the design, creation, launch, and ill-fated sinking of the luxury cruise ship—then the largest in the world. The dramatic narrative will be told through more than 300 artifacts and interactive elements.

The show stretches between 10,000 and 20,000 square feet and has had sold-out runs in Macau, Moscow, Riga, Perth, Sydney, and L.A. It follows Imagine Exhibition’s other offerings such as “Harry Potter: The Exhibition,” “Angry Birds Universe,” and “Downton Abbey: The Exhibition.”

The R.M.S. Titanic, made by the Belfast-based shipbuilders Harland and Wolff, set off on its maiden voyage from Southampton on April 10, 1912, and famously sank around 400 nautical miles away from its final destination of New York in the early hours of April 15. Of the ship’s 2,200 passengers and crew members, 1,517 died in the maritime accident. The last survivor of the Titanic, Eliza Gladys Dean, died in 2009; she was the youngest passenger aboard in 1912, aged just two months.

Titanic: The Exhibition. Image courtesy of Imagine Exhibitions.

Installation view of “Titanic: The Exhibition.” Photo courtesy of Imagine Exhibitions.

In 1997, James Cameron directed the movie Titanic, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet as fictional lovers aboard the doomed vessel. The film was the first-ever to reach an initial worldwide gross of over $1 billion. Imagine Exhibitions’s show includes several items from the blockbuster’s set.

As part of its interactive experience, visitors entering the show will first receive a boarding pass corresponding with a passenger on the ship. The organizers say this system will “allow the visitors to relate to the individual story of their passenger.” Other immersive elements include music from the era, the use of V.R. headsets, and the opportunity to view historically accurate recreations of the ship’s interiors and promenade deck. Artifacts included in the exhibition are said to “tell the latest details of her sinking and discovery” and include personal effects of those aboard the ship.

Titanic: The Exhibition. Image courtesy of Imagine Exhibitions.

Installation view of “Titanic: The Exhibition.” Photo courtesy of Imagine Exhibitions.

The show’s Discovery Gallery features a raised glass floor, mimicking the bottom of the ocean as part of a recreation of the Titanic’s wreck site, which lies at 12,500 feet below sea level. This is accompanied by a film narrated by Cameron who has visited the Titanic wreckage on more than 30 occasions.

Tom Zaller, the president and CEO of Imagine Exhibitions, also went on a dive mission to the wreck site in the late 1990s. “Since that firsthand experience, I’ve presented hundreds of exhibitions about the ship, her people and her stories,” he said.

Zaller explained that the continued public fascination with the Titanic is because “it’s every man’s story—the story of hopes and dreams,” and that this exhibition is “designed to immerse the visitor in the history of the Titanic in a new way, with incredible media experiences and recreated environments that bring the story to life”.

Titanic: The Exhibition” is on view at Westfield Old Orchard, Skokie, from February 16.

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