I recently visited the national Titanic Artifact Exhibit that is on display this summer.  The exhibit consists displays that chronicle the ocean liner from blueprints to the sinking and recovery in April 1912. 

What was most interesting to me involved the salvage operation.  The RMS Titanic, Inc. has conducted several rescue missions to the ship, located 2-1/2 miles below the surface.   It would be amazing enough to come upon the wreckage, but conservationists (aka: opportunists) have also succeeded in recovering 5,500 artifacts from the Titanic.  They have preserved things that I would have thought would have disintegrated long ago:  a letter (with the address still legible on the envelope), a piece of sheet music, perfume oil samples (that still have a scent), a dinner menu and clothing.  There was a display of dishes, neatly lined up in the sand as they were when the wooden crate storing them rotted away, and many other pieces of china that floated out of the severed hold.

How exciting it must have been to be a diver and to come upon a hairbrush, box of silverware or trunk full of clothes.  It brings to life the stories of the passengers, whether one of the 705 who survived or of the 1523 whose lives were lost.

Your history and the story of your organization is likely not located miles below the ocean floor, and thus is much easier to preserve.  Have you taken steps to act as a conservator to save the artifacts that tell your story?  And, more importantly, have you actively displayed them and invited others to partake in experiencing your history?  

We all know the story of the Titanic, but seeing the exhibit makes it real.  Collecting your archives is just the tip of the iceberg.  To truly bring your history to life, you need to share it in 3-D, tactile ways.  Commit to getting your memorabilia out of dry dock this year.

— beth triplett

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