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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Titanic Historical Society - Indian Orchard, Massachusetts

RMS Titanic photo 1912 from New York World-Telegram, now in the collection of the Library of Congress, public domain.

Ninety-eight years ago tomorrow, on April 14, 1912, the RMS Titanic hit an iceberg and sunk in the frigid north Atlantic. Over the decades fascination with the tragedy has prompted several books, several movies, and a very active historical society in a modest museum in Springfield, Massachusetts.

The Titanic Historical Society in the Springfield neighborhood of Indian Orchard began simply with a young man’s fascination with the story in 1963, and through his persistence, Edward S. Kamuda has provided a gathering point for serious researchers and armchair historians who share his interest in the doomed Titanic. Mr. Kamuda and his wife, Karen, also served as consultants on the 1997 film version, and appeared as extras in the movie.

Sketch of the Titanic disaster, New York World-Telegram, 1912, now in the collection of the Library of Congress, public domain.

At the time of its construction, the RMS Titanic, owned by the White Star Line, was the largest passenger ship in the world. Four days out on its maiden voyage, it struck an iceberg late in the evening of the 14th and sunk in the wee hours of the 15th. Of the 2,223 passengers on board, only 706 survived. At this time, there are no remaining living Titanic survivors; the last, who was a baby at the time of the disaster, died in 2009.

The museum in Indian Orchard is currently situated in the rear of a family-owned jewlery store. It is tightly packed with display cases filled with original Titanic artifacts and photos. Mr. Kamuda has collected written or audio or video recorded interviews with about 100 of the survivors over the years. There are donated letters by Titanic survivors and documents in the collection. The Titanic Historical Society, whose membership numbers in the thousands, publishes a regular newsletter, sponsors Titanic-related history events, and conventions known as Titanic Sail Away Parties.

Screen capture from "Titantic" (1953).

The museum received a flurry of interest after the 1997 “Titanic” movie was released, and it was, coincidentally, an earlier movie on the disaster that was responsible for the museum’s existence. Mr. Kamuda, whose family owned the Grand Theater across the street, saw the 1953 film “Titanic” with Barbara Stanwyck there as a boy, and became immediately fascinated by the historic event. For more on the Grand Theater, have a look at Thursday's post on Another Old Movie Blog.

For more on the very interesting Titanic Museum, have a look at this website.


Tony said...

My grandparents from both sides of my family, many uncles and aunts, and my own parents' first apartments and houses were in the Orchard, so many of my earliest memories are of that Main Street area. One of those memories was going to Mr. Kamuda for passport photographs, (I think he also did family portraits). I believe he also helped my newly immigrated and non-english speaking folks and family with other 'American' business at the time, I remember his name coming up often in the adults' conversations...

I didn't know about his love of all things Titanic until much later.

One thing about the Titanic that's rarely discussed is that she had two very similar sister ships, the Olympic and the Britannic.

The Britannic was turned into a hospital ship during WWI, and was sunk off the coast of Greece; while the Olympic actually rammed and sunk a German U-boat during the war, (the only merchant ship to do so), and went on to serve it's intended cruise ship purpose until the mid 1930's. But little is ever mentioned of these two.

It's tough living in the shadows of a famous sibling!

Jacqueline T Lynch said...

Thanks so much, Tony, for that interesting background on Mr. Kamuda. By the way, his museum also features some information on those two sister ships of the Titanic, and the White Star Line. But you're right, they'll always be in the shadow of their famous sibling.

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