Artifact Frequently Asked Questions
How many artifacts has RMS Titanic, Inc. recovered?
To date, RMS Titanic, Inc. has recovered more than 5,500 objects from the wreck site, ranging from delicate porcelain dishes to a 17-ton section of the hull. How many artifacts has RMS Titanic, Inc. recovered? To date, RMS Titanic, Inc. has recovered more than 5,500 objects from the wreck site, ranging from delicate porcelain dishes to a 17-ton section of the hull.
What happens to an object once it is recovered from the wreck site and taken out of the water?
Each recovered artifact must then undergo conservation following carefully designed processes to remove rust and salt deposits from each object.
Once an artifact leaves the water and is exposed to the air, it must undergo an immediate stabilization process to prevent further deterioration. When recovered from salt water, artifacts are cleaned with a soft brush and placed in foam-lined tubs of fresh water. Once received at the conservation laboratory, contaminating surface salts are removed from each artifact. After a period of six months to two years, artifacts can be conserved using treatments that are compatible with each artifact's construction materials.
Are the artifacts restored?
No, they are conserved. The goal of our artifact conservation program is not to restore but to arrest deterioration, thus allowing the objects to be exhibited wearing the face of the trauma they have experienced.
What is the conservation process for an artifact made of metal?
Metal objects are placed in a desalination bath and undergo the first steps of electrolysis, a process that removes negative ions and salt from the artifact. Electrolysis is now being used to remove salts from paper, leather, and wood as well. These materials also receive treatments of chemical agents and fungicides that remove rust and fungus from them. Once the salts have been removed, the artifacts are slowly dried.
What is the conservation process for an artifact made of ceramics or glass?
Similar to metal artifacts, the contaminating surface salts are removed and the object is then placed in successive desalination baths. The artifacts are slowly dried, but generally glass and ceramic artifacts need no additional treatment.
What is the conservation process for an artifact made of paper?
Artifacts made of paper are first freeze-dried to remove water and are then cleaned with specialized vacuums and hand tools to remove dirt and debris. Leather artifacts are soaked or injected with a water-soluble wax which replaces voids previously filled by water and debris.
How do you have artifacts made of paper and textiles in your collection – wouldn't they have deteriorated after being immersed under water for over 80 years?
Any of the artifacts in our collection that are made of paper or textiles or similar materials, would have been recovered from the wreck site, found in something made of leather. The tanning process used in the early 1900's to treat leather, used a chemical that repeals the micro-organisms at the bottom of the ocean. When we find a leather suitcase, wallet or trunk, it is a virtual time capsule to 1912, with its contents well protected from the elements that the other objects at the bottom of the ocean have faced.
Why is it important to recover and conserve artifacts from the Titanic's wreck site?
The bottom of the deep ocean is a hostile environment. Over time, man-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 the Titanic's wreck site to help preserve the physical memory of the Ship and the people who perished in the disaster. Through these activities, people all over the world 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.
How are these delicate artifacts displayed around the world?
Artifacts are displayed in specially designed cases where temperature, relative humidity, and light levels can be controlled, protecting the artifacts from these agents of deterioration. The artifacts displayed have been conserved and are continuously monitored and maintained so that they can be shown in the Exhibition as well as preserved for the future