A dainty pair of lady's leather shoes. A faux-ivory celluloid-backed hand mirror. A toothbrush. A jar of cold cream, half-used. A bottle of fine champagne, stoppered, with the dregs still left inside.
These things left behind - things as mundane as a tin of tooth powder and as elegant as a dainty hairpin - tell the human tale of the frigid April night in 1912 when the ocean liner Titanic was struck by an iceberg and went down in the North Atlantic. More than 1,500 souls perished, and more than 700 survived.
At the Mary Brogan Museum of Art & Science, visitors can experience the Titanic's majesty and tragedy at "Titanic: The Artifacts Exhibition," a wonderfully curated exhibit of artifacts retrieved from the ship's debris field. It is a sobering, instructive and deeply moving display.
More than 100 artifacts comprise the exhibit, which is housed on the museum's ground floor in a cleverly constructed gallery space that leads visitors through displays illustrating the construction of the mighty ship, its launching, its elegant appointments and its desperate final hours.
It's easy to get lost in thought as you walk through the exhibit. Passengers' stories captivate. A display of china with photographs of the Titanic's dining facilities and printed menus catch at the imagination. The recreation of a third-class stateroom invites comparison with descriptions of first-class accommodations. A porthole illustrates the engineering that was considered an unsinkable work of marine architecture.
At the end, visitors can compare their tickets - replicas of White Star Line boarding passes with actual passengers' names on them - to the lists of those who died and those who survived. It is a fitting finale to this fascinating exhibit, which will be in residence at The Brogan through January 2012.