Chic ships are fo­cus of ex­hibit

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - TRAVEL - TRACEE M. HERBAUGH

SALEM, Mass. — This was the golden era for ocean travel: when ladies wore floor-length ball­go­wns, some­times with para­sols in hand, and gents donned flared frock coats that gave them an hour­glass fig­ure, a style in­spired by Prince Al­bert.

Op­u­lence and beauty were paramount for the cruise liner.

Fans can now re­live this by­gone era through some tell­tale relics on dis­play at an ex­hibit at the Pe­abody Es­sex Mu­seum in Salem, which part­nered with Lon­don’s Vic­to­ria and Al­bert mu­seum for the show.

The ex­hibit, called “Ocean Lin­ers: Glam­our, Speed, and Style,” tells a nar­ra­tive of so­ci­ety’s love of ocean travel and how these ships evolved over the 100 years they ruled the seas.

“Ocean lin­ers con­veyed ideas, they were this spe­cial place where any­thing was pos­si­ble,” said Daniel Fi­namore, a cu­ra­tor for the ex­hibit.

In­deed, glam­our, speed and style were ideas with which ocean lin­ers were as­so­ci­ated. The pub­lic was most fas­ci­nated by speed. “The lat­est ship had to be the fastest,” Fi­namore said.

There are more than 200 works from the 19th and 20th cen­turies on dis­play, in­clud­ing tex­tiles, fur­ni­ture, mod­els, pho­to­graphs and fashion.

Of course, any vis­ual story about ocean lin­ers wouldn’t be com­plete with­out some ar­ti­facts from the “un­sink­able” Ti­tanic, which broke apart and sank April 15, 1912, af­ter the ship’s cap­tain ig­nored warn­ings and steered the boat into an ice­berg at speeds meant to im­press pas­sen­gers.

From the Ti­tanic, there is a framed ad­ver­tise­ment for sec­on­dand third-class bunks avail­able on the voy­age from New York back to Lon­don. Tick­ets started at $36.25 for the voy­age on April 20, 1912, a trip that never hap­pened.

There’s also a wooden deckchair with bro­ken can­ing and a piece of hand-carved wooded arch­way, the largest sur­viv­ing piece of wood­work from the Ti­tanic. The deckchair and arch­way piece were found float­ing in the water near the ship.

For ocean lin­ers, lux­ury was largely on dis­play dur­ing meals. Lunch on the sunken Lusi­ta­nia, a Bri­tish ocean liner that was tor­pe­doed by a Ger­man sub­ma­rine in 1915, might in­clude green tur­tle soup and hindquar­ters of lamb served on fine china with shiny sil­ver cut­lery.

In the ex­hibit, there also is a 1950 pho­to­graph of the ac­tress Mar­lene Di­et­rich, wear­ing a Chris­tian Dior but­toned-up skirt suit wait­ing to board the Queen El­iz­a­beth, op­er­ated by the Cu­nard Line. Di­et­rich was an ex­pe­ri­enced trans-At­lantic tourist. She had a fa­vorite room with a piano that is part of the ex­hibit.

“Ocean Lin­ers” cap­tures the mu­se­um­goer’s imag­i­na­tion and highlights a con­trast be­tween ocean travel now and yes­ter­year, said Richard Grif­fin, of Salem, who was view­ing the ex­hibit with his wife, Cyn­thia.

“It’s trans­port­ing,” he said. “It is a feel­ing of be­ing rather than do­ing, then as op­posed to now, when peo­ple would just be and lux­u­ri­ate in­stead of do­ing so many things.”

“Ocean Lin­ers: Glam­our, Speed, and Style” runs through Oct. 9 at the Pe­abody Es­sex Mu­seum. For more in­for­ma­tion, go to in­for­ma­ or (978) 745-9500.


Ad­ver­tise­ments, ship mod­els and news­reel footage flesh out “Ocean Lin­ers: Glam­our, Speed, and Style” at the Pe­abody Es­sex Mu­seum in Salem, Mass. The ex­hibit pays homage to the ocean liner era.

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