The last day we were in Singapore we went by Marina Bay Sands, which, in case you haven’t heard of it already, is an enormous new luxury complex built on entirely reclaimed land, consisting of hotel, casino, theatre, mall, museum, skypark and more, and is in fact an architectural (is that a word?) piece of art. Me and my mother had paid the skypark a visit a few evenings before, and seen the flyers for Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition some nights earlier, and decided that this fitting choice of museum exhibition to check out, what with the upcoming centenary, was what we wanted to spend our last hours in Singapore on. Especially as this particular morning the clouds curled in, dropping their loads of endless torrential rain and cracking the sky open with lightning.
After getting lost in the many underground tunnels and links and malls underneath Singapore (more on this later) we ended up stumbling out disoriented into the rain outside a massive five skyscraper office complex and wondering where on earth we had ended up. In the end we hailed a cab rather than brave either thunderstorm or the tunnels (when I say tunnels don’t think creepy narrow underground passageways. Think of the inside of a modern up-street shopping mall, and you’ve got it about right) again. Seeking shelter in the sleek modern ArtScience Museum, we got our tickets before stepping into the lift taking us to the right floor. That’s where we got our first pleasant surprise as we were each handed a boarding pass filled out with information of one of the actual passengers of the Titanic, including name, class, and some background information, which we could then to some extent follow through the exhibition.
The best thing was still the whole lay-out of the exhibition. When entering the halls, you went from the beginning and building of the titanic in a hall made to seem like the harbour, and then onto the ship, beginning the voyage, moving through the classes with replica cabins and even the grand staircase. Every hall was interspersed with artifacts brought up from the wreckage, easily and well-structured information, and stories and quotes of the passengers themselves. We went through corridors and boiler rooms until we hit the ice berg (there was a huge block of ice for people to go up close and personal and touch to feel the cold reality of it) to the eerie bottom of the ocean in a room with glass tiles over a sand bottom covered in scattered debris retrieved from the wreck, a wall consisting of a huge part of the ship hull, a sad film on about the discovery of the ship and rapid detoriation and decay of the wreck, due to the presence of iron-eating bactery which one day will cause the vessel to disintegrate completely.
My favourite thing though was the recreated promenade deck. It was made to be at nighttime, with a view of the starry sky and the ocean below, light simulating starlight on waves when you looked down from the deck, a cool breeze blowing through, making at all seem oddly real.
I loved it, and I also loved that you could sit down and just take a moment. People underestimate how tiring museum walking can be, and I hate having to rush through. I like to take my time and enjoy the experience at my own pace.
At the very end of the exhibition was the fates of the passengers revealed in full. A terrifying list of who survived and who did not, the list of survivors shrinking for each class downwards. More benches here to take a moment to ponder the fate of the passenger whose boarding pass we’d been given, to wonder about our own impermanence and the nature of humanity in the kind of situations that matter.
It was an interesting way of structuring the exhibition, and a fresh way of portraying a well-known story. I loved the idea of the lay-out, going through the ship as I was told the story, seeing it from a distance of a century, yet being part of it at the same time. It was a phenomenal idea, and an excellent museum experience (Ten out of ten), and I know I’ll be checking in on the ArtScience Museum again the next time I visit Singapore.
Both “me” and “my husband” lived.