Group plans interactive Titanic museum for Niagara Falls, Ont.

Ontario could get Titanic museum

An interactive museum that hopes to recreate the experience of sailing on board the Titanic may be coming to Canada.

A group in Niagara Falls, Ont., has conditionally purchased land that would house the museum and is moving ahead with plans to launch an exhibit dubbed “Experience Titanic.”

David Van Velzen, who’s spearheading the project, says the museum will differ from many similar efforts around the world by focusing on an interactive audience experience.

Van Velzen says the museum will feature rooms that replicate those on the doomed ocean liner that sank in 1912, and will aim to recreate the experience of striking the iceberg that brought the “unsinkable ship” down.

He also says the exhibit will try to educate guests about the various Canadian connections to the ship.

He says those connections make Niagara Falls a natural choice for the museum, but says the subject has appeal well beyond the local community.

“Titanic is a global subject,” Van Velzen said in a telephone interview. “It appeals to everybody around the world, and there are permanent exhibitions about Titanic in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, in Branson, Missouri, in Los Vegas, Nevada, so why not Niagara Falls?”

Van Velzen said many of the roughly 130 Canadian passengers on board the Titanic had ties to southern Ontario, particularly the area between Toronto and Fort Erie.

He said he hopes to build the stories of those passengers into the museum experience.

He said guests would be given a boarding pass with the name and details of a real passenger and will learn facts about that person as they travel through the exhibit.

Video screens and tablets throughout the museum would provide trivia facts, video content and other material to educate potential visitors.

But the primary focus, he said, will be on creating a realistic experience of life aboard the Titanic.

“We are going to put you on the ship,” he said. “You will go through a boiler room, an engine room, a third-class cabin, a first-class cabin. … We’ll put you on the deck of the ship just as it hits the iceberg.”

Van Velzen plans to take a multisensory approach to the project, including using sound to replicate what passengers may have heard as the iceberg approached, and a refrigerated wall that people can touch to get a sense of the temperature that night.

He said he hopes to finalize the purchase of the museum property by April and says he’s aiming to open the exhibit for business in spring 2018.

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Michelle McQuigge, The Canadian Press