During seven research and recovery expeditions conducted between 1987 and 2004, RMS Titanic, Inc., (RMST) recovered over 5,500 artifacts. One hundred of these artifacts are now featured at Titanic The Experience. During the summer of 2010, RMS Titanic, Inc. completed Expedition Titanic, its eighth and most ambitious mission to the wreck site of Titanic. These artifacts range from a massive 15-ton portion of the Ship's hull on display at the Luxor in Las Vegas, to a delicate child's marble measuring only one-half inch in diameter. "Little Big Piece," the second largest piece of Titanic ever recovered, is now on display at Titanic the Experience. RMST maintains a comprehensive digital archive of these recovered and conserved artifacts, as well as photographic data from the site.
Why is it important to recover and conserve artifacts from Titanic's wreck site?
The bottom of the deep ocean is a hostile environment. Over time, human-made objects will be consumed by bacteria, abraded by sediments, and corroded by salt and acids. Even the Ship itself is slowly being destroyed by iron-eating microorganisms; and will one day collapse on the ocean floor. Artifacts that are not recovered from the wreck site will eventually be lost. RMS Titanic, Inc. is committed to recovering, conserving, and exhibiting artifacts from Titanic's wreck site to help preserve the physical memory of the Ship and the people who perished in the disaster. These recovery efforts have allowed people all over the world to have the opportunity to see three-dimensional objects that bore witness to the sinking and to gain new insights into the human dimensions of the tragedy.
Titanic's home at the bottom of the deep ocean is an unwelcoming environment. For nearly a century, agents of deterioration and corrosion— water, salts, acids, abrasive sediments, iron-eating microbes, bacteria, and other organisms— have created an atmosphere that inevitably destroys objects of all shapes and sizes.
RMST, Inc. is committed to rescuing and conserving the priceless artifacts from Titanic's wreck site to preserve the legacy of the Ship and those who perished. RMST and its parent company, Premier Exhibitions, preserve and protect these cultural resources to museum standards, ensuring that future generations will have access to these remarkable artifacts.
Preserving Titanic artifacts requires a collaborative team of conservators, curators, registrars, archaeologists, historians, and other experts to provide continual care and maintenance of the collection from the moment of recovery onward. By strictly following these procedures, RMST can safely share these unique artifacts with the public, while respecting their historical context as reminders of the RMS Titanic legacy.
1. Conservators and registrars supervise the recovery process. Once on board ship, each artifact is briefly identified, measured, photographed, and assigned an identifying accession number, then stabilized to prevent additional degradation.
2. Wrapped in protective coverings and cushioned with foam, the artifacts are then placed in secure containers for transport to conservation laboratories on land.
3. All artifacts must be desalinated in successive changes of distilled water. This initial process removes dissolved ocean salts which contribute to the rapid deterioration of all artifacts. Desalination treatments can take weeks to years depending upon the size, complexity, and component materials of the artifact.
4. After desalination, object-specific treatments are conducted to clean surfaces, stabilize physical and chemical damage, and to remove stains, debris, and corrosion products.
5. Once conserved, the artifacts are fully documented and cataloged. Curators, ship historians, scientists, and other researchers conduct in-depth research to learn as much as possible about object manufacture, history, and use in order to inform our understanding not only of the Ship, but also its passengers and crew.
6. Protecting and preserving these cultural materials —curation— is a significant commitment of time, funds, and staff. As steward of the Titanic Collection, RMST is committed to the long-term care of every recovered object.
7. Artifacts recovered from Titanic include metals, ceramics, glass, and, surprisingly, textiles, papers, leather, and objects such as olives, nuts, and soap. They range from tools and equipment needed to run the Ship to personal items of passengers and crew. Curators select objects that enhance the Exhibition storyline. China and silverware create a visual image of elegant dining rooms, while stock pots and au gratin dishes speak to the galley and the attention paid to food preparation. Clothing and jewelry demonstrate early twentieth-century styles and social levels among passengers.
8. Artifacts selected for exhibit must be able to withstand the rigors of travel and display. Although the objects may appear to be robust, they are actually quite fragile. In order to protect them while on display, the Exhibition uses microclimates in the exhibit cases, special lighting, and custom-made supports to prolong the life of each artifact.
9. Each Exhibition is a joint effort by the design, production, and collections departments. Working together, these teams resolve issues of logistics, shipping, and construction to install the Exhibition at different venues. Artifacts seen in the Exhibition have been prepared for display, shipped in custom-designed boxes and crates in climate-controlled vehicles, and installed by professional staff.
10. While some artifacts may be on display long-term, others such as fragile paper documents and textiles are rotated regularly between exhibition and storage to preserve their condition. Other artifacts are monitored and may be subject to additional conservation treatments.
Managing the Wreck Site
RMS Titanic, Inc., (RMST) was established for the sole purpose of exploring the wreck of RMS Titanic. RMST's objective is to obtain oceanographic and scientific data, then use that data and recovered artifacts for historical verification, scientific education, and public awareness. It is our goal to preserve the memory of Titanic and those who sailed with her and to honor that memory with respect for the Ship's historical significance.
This past summer (2010), RMS Titanic, Inc., gathered together leaders in the scientific, oceanographic, and historical communities in a monumental initiative to document the entire wreck site in stunning 2D and 3D hi-definition imagery and video. The initial images and data collected surpassed everyone's expectations.
Headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, RMS Titanic, Inc., is a wholly owned subsidiary of Premier Exhibitions, Inc., listed on NASDAQ under the ticker symbol PRXI.