Why do people still flock to the Louvre (despite the exchange rate) to see the Mona Lisa when they can Google it for free? Because when it comes to priceless artifacts only the real thing can convey the sense of awe and power contained in the historical object itself. For instance if Johnson & Johnson had decided to make plaster casts of the Qin Shi Huang Terracotta Army soldiers for part of its presence at the 2008 Olympics it is likely that thousands would have skipped seeing them and J&J would have missed out on those consumer interactions. Instead they came in droves to see the five authentic warriors generating priceless p.r. for the company by leveraging the precious relics used in cooperation with the Chinese government.
Now Walt Disney Studios and Country Financial have taken a page from that book and are taking their own invaluable items on the road. Country Financial has teamed with Atlanta GA-based Premier Exhibitions to bring 50 artifacts from the HMS Titanic to 21 markets to tell the ill-fated ship’s story with an eye to how it could have been avoided. Disney has hit the rails with the “A Christmas Carol” Train Tour to promote the new Disney retelling of Charles Dickens’ classic story due to be released in 3D November 6. The tour which began May 22 will hit 40 train stations across the U.S. culminating at New York City’s Grand Central Terminal from Oct. 30 to Nov. 1 and features many original Dickens artifacts. Like the Titanic tour the real thing is the right stuff.
Aboard the “A Christmas Carol” train the artifacts include Dickens’ fountain pen several of his letters two handwritten pages from “Nicholas Nickleby” and several early editions of “A Christmas Carol ” all on loan from The Charles Dickens Museum in London. At each stop consumers travel through the train museum viewing and experiencing the artifacts all sealed in climate-controlled airtight containers for their protection.
“We wanted to bring the real thing into people’s lives ” says Lylle Breier svp-worldwide special events at Walt Disney Studios. “When they see letters in Dickens’ handwriting everyone from five-year-old kids to 85-year-old grandparents are equally blown away. It makes such a huge impact.” And that impact was the goal she says. “We’re telling this story for the first time as Dickens wrote it. We needed to represent that authenticity ” she says.
For Country Financial the idea was to do something unique that would target consumers in key markets across the Midwest and West. The fit with the Titanic was a shoo-in for the insurance and investments provider.
“The Titanic is the classic example of not planning ahead ” says Doyle Williams cmo at Country Financial. “The lesson is that the tragedy could have been avoided. The importance of planning ahead is our core message too.” The whole exhibit asks the guests “Do you have a plan in place for the possible icebergs in your life?”
The company built a mobile museum out of two tractor-trailers (Design/Build: Craftsmen Industries St. Charles MO). Consumers can walk through the museum’s seven galleries progressing from the grand staircase (where they get a photo) to the boiler room. The rooms grow darker as they go. The voyage concludes with a display of the passenger manifest where the guests can match the name on their “boarding passes” with a real Titanic passenger and find out if they lived or died.
The artifacts were chosen so that they would travel well and are presented in climate-controlled cases. Between stops they are shipped to the next location via an artifacts and fine arts shipping company which specializes in protecting the priceless items.
Some of those irreplaceables include: three sets of gold cufflinks and collar buttons in green blue and purple enamel a Gillette razor blade wrapper a leather satchel and (our favorite) a copy of a passenger’s White Star Line Baggage Insurance.
“The authenticity is what makes this exhibit work ” Williams says. “It all becomes more real. These things came up from that ship a mile under the ocean. It’s awe-inspiring that they survived and people seem to appreciate the fact that we’re offering this educational entertainment experience for free.” em