Events to mark the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic are scheduled for later this week by the Titanic Historical Society. The oldest and largest organization in the world devoted to preserving the history of the doomed luxury liner is headquartered in Springfield Massachusetts. WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill reports.
The Titanic Historical Society and Museum is housed in a former photography studio in back of a jewelry store in Springfield’s Indian Orchard Neighborhood. The modest space holds a private collection of thousands of items connected with the doomed ship. Laid out in display cases are items such as buttons, combs and articles of clothing survivors had with them on board, poignant letters, photographs and other memorabilia. There are ships models, and replicas of the china and silverware from Titanic.
The museum does not contain any artifacts salvaged from the ship’s wreckage.
Edward Kamuda is the preserver of the very personal history of the Titanic. The founder and president of the Titanic Historical Society, which began nearly a half century ago after Kamuda learned that the possessions of a survivor had been tossed in the trash after their death.
Among the museum’s prize possessions are the life vest worn by Mrs. John Jacob Astor, and a deck chair that was retrieved and kept by a crewmen from a ship sent to recover bodies. Both items are currently on loan to other museums.
Kamuda’s fascination with the Titanic began he says when he read a book in middle school, titled “ A Great Ship Goes Down”. Then he saw the 1953 film, “ Titanic” Kamuda said he was curious about what had become of the survivors, so he started corresponding with dozens of them.
Walking through the museum, Kamuda easily recalls the names and stories of the people who were aboard the RMS Titantic which set out for its maiden voyage on April 10, 1912 from Southhampton England and struck an iceberg and sank in the North Atlantic on April 15th, 1912.
There is a display case devoted to Robert Ballard’s 1985 expedition to discover the Titanic’s wreckage. It includes a duplicate of the memorial plague from the Titanic Historical Society that Ballard later placed on the ships wreckage.
There is also a section in the museum devoted to the movies about the Titanic disaster, including the James Cameron blockbuster. Kamuda was a technical advisor and he and his wife are on screen as extras.
The tiny museum has seen a big jump in visitors during the last several weeks, according to Barbara Kamuda, who helps her brother run it.
The museum has a gift shop, on line, and one of the most popular items in the weeks leading up to the 100th anniversary is the replica china. Barbara Kamuda speculates a lot of people planned Titanic themed dinner parties.
The Titanic Historical Society is planning a gala dinner of its own, this coming Saturday, April 21st
Also on the April 21s, they’ll dedicate a large memorial made of black granite to the more than 15 hundred people who died in the disaster. The memorial is in Springfield’s Oak Grove Cemetary.