Exhibit chance of a lifetime
Next week, a crew from Atlanta will arrive in Hobbs to set up an exhibit of artifacts from the Titanic, which sank on April 15, 1912 and lay undisturbed more than three miles below the water until her remains were discovered in 1985.
Since then, thousands of artifacts have been recovered and put on display at museums around the world, and several hundred of those artifacts will be on display at the Western Heritage Museum and Cowboy Hall of Fame beginning July 28.
Until then, the Western Heritage Museum and Lea County Cowboy Hall of Fame will be closed to the public, said Erin Anderson, curator at the museum.
An email from museum personnel explained that the “Titanic Artifact Exhibition” is an extensive exhibit that will take several weeks to install. The closing of the museum will give the museum staff and the crew from Premier Exhibitions, the firm that administers the artifacts, the time and space to build the exhibit. Rooms from the ship are being replicated and actual artifacts found in and around the ship will be on display.
Darrell Beauchamp, executive director of the museum, said the Titanic exhibit “will be world class. Twenty-five million people have already seen it. This is the chance of lifetime for the people of Lea County and others in the area.”
Preparing for the exhibit will be no small task. Several month ago, the New Mexico Junior College Board authorized adding supplemental electrical equipment and supplemental security to the museum.
“In fact, the additions had been planned for sometime, but having the Titanic exhibition changed the timeline some,” Beauchamp said. “We don’t want to talk too much about the security that’s in place,” Beauchamp said. “But the artifacts are absolutely priceless and different kinds of security will be in place 24 hours a day.”
Not only will visitors to the museum get to see artifacts, they’ll get the experience at a much lower cost than visitors to most other museums have paid.
“In Albuquerque, people had to pay to get into the museum and then had to pay another $21 to see the exhibit,” Beauchamp said. “Thanks to the J. F Maddox Foundation, the City of Hobbs and New Mexico Junior College, and dozens of other contributors, including businesses and individuals, people will get to see the exhibit for the $5 admission fee to the museum. And members of the museum won’t have to pay anything. That’s amazing since it cost $500,000 to bring the exhibit here.”
A great variety of artifacts will be in the exhibit.
“Naturally we couldn’t get a 38-foot section of the hull,” Beauchamp said. “But there are 200 items, dishes from the first class kitchen, things that belonged to passengers, even some writing materials that were preserved.”
On July 26, the museum will be open from 7-9 p.m.for a private VIP/sponsors preview and reception. That preview will be by invitation only.
The next day, the museum will open at 5:30 p.m. for a private members only preview and reception. Only members of the Western Heritage Museum will be able to attend. Membership information is available at nmjc.edu/museum.
On July 28 the museum will open to the public at 9 a.m.
Beauchamp said reservations are being taken now for group tours and that some days are already filled. Teachers and members of groups who want a group tour should call 575-492-2678 now to make their reservations.
Beauchamp said the museum is hoping for 25,000-30,000 visitors.
“It’s something that most people will never have another chance to see,” he said.
Dorothy N. Fowler can be reached at 575-391-5446 or by email.