When the ocean liner RMS Titanic hit an iceberg and sank on its maiden voyage in 1912, more than 1,500 passengers died. It made headlines as one of the worst peacetime maritime disasters in history. The fateful voyage was the backdrop for the blockbuster 1997 movie Titanic. Now the ship’s story has come to life in an exhibit at a Las Vegas hotel.
As they enter the exhibit at the Luxor Hotel, each visitor receives a boarding pass with the name of an actual passenger aboard the Titanic. They enter the exhibit as if they were boarding the ocean liner on April 14, 1912.
They walk past an unadorned third-class cabin before reaching the elegantly-furnished first-class section - considered more luxurious than any hotel of the era.
The more than 300 artifacts on display were recovered from the ocean floor, after the wreck was discovered in 1985. The jewelry, personal toiletries, china and silverware take visitors like Eric Barr back in time.
"When you actually see the artifacts, it brings you a little closer to life, to the boat. It makes you feel like you were actually on the ship with the passengers,” said Barr.
The Artifact Exhibition also features replicas. The most noteworthy is the grand staircase that most people recognize from the movie Titanic. Laurie Maidment is from England.
“It was amazing, especially the scene where you come into the first class where the stairs are and what it was like in the first class," she said. "And you could imagine Rose from the film walking down the stairs. It was fantastic, really good.”
Exhibit specialist Randy Dale finds a section of the ship's hull named “The Big Piece” to be "fascinating."
“It is the only one of its kind around the globe. It is the largest piece ever brought up from the Titanic itself," said Dale. "It is 15 tons and it is 26 feet [8 meters] wide. And it fills up an entire room and when you go in that room you feel the essence of the ship itself.”
“Amazing, absolutely amazing,” said one visitor standing in front of "The Big Piece."
Visitors are invited to touch a specially-created iceberg to feel how cold the water was when the supposedly unsinkable ship went down.
“And the individuals that lost their lives, most of them did not die from drowning, they died of hypothermia, which is where their body basically shuts down because it gets too cold,” said Dale.
The emotional journey through the exhibit ends at the Memorial Wall, where visitors learn their passenger’s fate.
“ He survived," said Barr. "He survived... right there. It is cool. He is only 21 years old. Very educational and emotional. I felt like I was one of the surviving passengers, you know, kind of like telling the story."
It’s a story The Artifact Exhibition in Las Vegas will be telling until it closes in 2018.