Titanic museums are unsinkable attractions

The exterior of a half-scale replica of the The exterior of a half-scale replica of the Titanic cruise ship in Pigeon Forge, Tenn. Photo Credit: AP

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It was, of course, the most famous maritime disaster of all time. Late on the night of April 14, 1912, the luxury liner RMS Titanic, en route to New York on its maiden voyage, struck an iceberg. Two hours and 40 minutes later, the "unsinkable" Titanic foundered beneath the 29-degree waters of the North Atlantic, taking with it the lives of 2,208 passengers and crew -- but leaving 711 survivors to tell the tale.

Then, in 1985, just as the Titanic was poised to sail beyond living memory, oceanographer Robert Ballard located the remarkably intact ship about 12,500 feet down. Eerie photos of the ghostly derelict spawned a new generation's interest, bolstered by the popularity of James Cameron's 1997 Academy Award-winning blockbuster, which is being re-released in 3-D on Wednesday.

So it's hardly surprising this month's 100th anniversary will be marked with commemorations and special exhibitions in the United States and abroad. The largest will take place in Belfast, Northern Ireland, where the ship was built and where a six-story attraction dedicated to the ship had its grand opening this weekend. Other events are planned in Southampton, England, from whence the Titanic sailed; Cobh (then known as "Queenstown"), Ireland, its last port-of-call, and Halifax, Nova Scotia, where recovered bodies were taken.

And for true Titanic fanatics, there are two memorial cruises, one departing from Southampton, the other from New York (from $999, 866-800-0719), which will converge over the ship's final resting spot in the Atlantic for a service at precisely 2:20 a.m. on April 15.

Closer to home, there are a few marquee events and destinations: 

SOUTH STREET SEAPORT MUSEUM 

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12 Fulton St., Manhattan

212-748-8600 southstreetseaportmuseum.org

10 a.m.-6 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday

ADMISSION $5 (free younger than 9)

Beginning April 10, the recently reopened museum will put historical artifacts and documents from the ship, along with props and promotional material from various films, on display through May 15. 

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THE TITANIC MUSEUM 

208 Main St. Indian Orchard, Mass.

413-543-4770 titanichistoricalsociety.org

10 a.m.-4 p.m. weekdays, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays

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ADMISSION $4 ($2 ages 6-12)

This private museum's collection of artifacts incorporates many items donated by Titanic survivors, including Mrs. John Jacob Astor's lifejacket, the personal effects of second-class passenger Selena Rogers Cook, a third-class menu, a metal lifeboat flag, lookout Frederick Fleet's sketch of the iceberg, and -- intriguingly -- the wireless message from the Amerika, which never reached the Titanic's bridge, pinpointing the location of two large icebergs.

Time a visit to coincide with the Titanic Historical Society's annual three-day convention April 20-22 ($235) that includes a re-creation of the last dinner served in first class aboard the ship, among other events. 

TITANIC MUSEUM ATTRACTIONS 

2134 Parkway, Pigeon Forge, Tenn. (800-381-7670)

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3255 76 Country Blvd., Branson, Mo. (800-381-7670)

titanicattraction.com

ADMISSION About $23 ($11 ages 5-12)

Two interactive exhibits (both with artifacts on loan from the Titanic Historical Society) invite patrons inside half-sized scale models, where the "passengers" tour model staterooms, climb the grand staircase, walk the decks (before and after the collision), touch an iceberg and meet re-enactors playing passengers. 

RMS TITANIC INC. 

rmstitanic.net

The official salvor-in-possession of the Titanic has recovered 5,500 artifacts in 10 salvage expeditions, which it displays, unrestored, along with re-creations of staterooms and the grand staircase, in traveling and permanent exhibits. Traveling exhibits currently are in San Diego, Detroit and Kansas City, Mo. The permanent exhibits are in Las Vegas (inside the Luxor Hotel) and Orlando, Fla.

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