While Halifax had its eyes on the wild prospect of a $300-million Titanic replica on the waterfront—which, as you may remember, sank before its maiden voyage—another Titanic attraction was quietly setting up shop in the background. Titanic expert Larry Daley opened Titanic & Iceberg in late July, and we’re happy to report that this one actually exists.
The Coast toured the exhibit in Historic Properties last weekend while Daley was in town from St. John’s, NL. Much of what’s on display is from his private collection, including original artifacts, props from the 1997 film and reproductions. An instrumental version of “My Heart Will Go On” plays on loop inside. “I don't mind that, '' Daley says. “I always get a bit of a tingly feeling when I hear that.”
The attraction is billed as Canada’s first “Titanic and Iceberg exhibit,” because you won’t only see displays about the doomed ocean liner, but also what sank it. Next to a wall of iceberg models sits a chest freezer containing a hunk of ice Daley chipped off of an iceberg near St. John’s. Guests are invited to hold it. This particular piece of ice, of course, isn’t the piece of ice responsible for 1,500 deaths, but Daley says it has “the same DNA.” Both came from the same glacier in Greenland, he explains.
”It’s Titanic central here, for sure,” says Daley of the disaster’s enduring appeal in our city. “The Halifax connection is amazing. It’s the only place in the world that gives you the full connection.”
For the uninitiated, cable ships from Halifax recovered the passengers’ bodies and 150 of them are buried here. White Star Line also had a Halifax office. “There's a very deep story here in Halifax because of that—and now it's become a pivotal tourism interest,” Daley says. “My exhibit being so new here, you know, it's another addition to the story with a different perspective.”
Titanic & Iceberg is a hop, skip and a jump away from the city’s other Titanic exhibit at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. Daley hopes they can have a symbiotic relationship: he tells visitors to go check out the museum’s in hopes the folks at the museum will do the same.
Daley is kind of a big deal in the Titanic world—while touring The Coast around the exhibit he was stopped on two separate occasions for photos and autographs—which is how he amassed such an impressive collection. Daley happened to be sitting in a pub on George Street in St. John’s in September 1985 when a group of excited people in coveralls showed up to celebrate. They had just discovered the Titanic wreck. And Daley discovered his new obsession.
He worked logistics and media relations for a 1998 wreck expedition and, with the money from that, started to bid at auctions for Titanic memorabilia. Artifacts in the exhibit include a floor tile that was removed from the ship before its maiden voyage and several original photographs. In 2001, he met and “forged a great friendship” with director James Cameron. They worked together on a number of Titanic projects, including the 2003 docu-drama Ghosts of the Abyss. For helping with logistics on that film, Cameron gifted Daley a dive to see the Titanic wreck himself. So the exhibit houses photos and videos of the wreck that Daley took from his dive in the Mir-1, a Russian submersible, in 2003.
As for the props from the 1997 film, they include a flashlight used in a scene in which Jack and Rose are being chased after their steamy encounter in the car, one of Jack’s sketches and the life jacket worn by Rose’s mom. These were gifts from “Jim,” Daley says. Cameron has also donated props and autographed memorabilia for fundraisers and charity events Daley has worked with in Newfoundland."He’s good like that.”
Daley wasn’t worried the recent Titanic-themed media fiasco would affect his exhibit. “I’m not a scandal type person,” he says, “I don't pay attention to that.” The floor plan for Titanic & Iceberg was already designed and installation had begun when tales of virtual reality rooms and a 4D holographic stage dominated our feeds. “I don't know what the motivation was there, but I mean, that's something that you probably wouldn't see in Vegas, let alone on the Halifax waterfront,” Daley says. “I wasn't surprised it was pretty well silenced within weeks.”
Daley’s exhibit opened with little promotion on July 30 using this summer to fine tune things and test the waters. Daley says an opening event, programs and field trips are in the works for the fall, and he’s looking at adding more displays in the winter. Titanic & Iceberg is currently open seven days a week 9:30am-6pm, and is scheduled to run until October 2023. The exhibit is located at 1883 Upper Water Street. Tickets start at $12.