Section: Opinion

Column: Artifacts of the Titanic should be left untouched

When we were discussing artwork from Ancient Greece, specifically architecture and sculptures, in ARHS 110: Introduction to Western Art: Ancient to Medieval, our professor brought up just how many pieces of work had been removed from Greece and taken to museums around the world. So, with last Sunday being the anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, it made me revisit the ethics of moving or taking entire pieces of history. There is a big difference between educational gain and commercial gain with regard to historical sites and artifacts. As students, we must remember to prioritize the preservation of historical sites and be mindful of their importance to future generations.  

Removing historical artifacts and voyaging down to the wreck has raised ethical concerns for generations. The Elgin Marbles, a series of Ancient Greek sculptures that were taken from the Parthenon in 1801, serve as an important historical example. Since the 19th century, these sculptures have been housed in The British Museum. Unlike these sculptures, the Titanic practically serves as a gravesite. Pairs of shoes found can indicate where there was once a body. Thousands of artifacts have been pulled up from the wreckage, now displayed in museums around the world. For some, profiting off of the site became a competition; different organizations wanted to auction off and sell the many artifacts they had found. Even tourism became popular, with companies charging tens of thousands of dollars for people to explore the wreckage. A balance is needed between education through tourism and preservation of of historical sites. 

The continuous intrusion of the site has caused damage to the ship itself, disrespecting the memories of those who are connected to the tragedy. Trash has been found littering the site, proof that tourism has done much more harm than good. Before stricter laws were implemented in order to protect the Titanic, the many trips made caused even more harm to the wreck. Thankfully, as it’s been more than 100 years since the Titanic sank, the site is now protected under UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage. So, do we really need to continue going down to the wreckage? With the Titanic being over a century old, bacteria slowly eating away at it and parts of the ship having collapsed in on itself, isn’t it better to leave it alone now? The expeditions have caused enough damage, and thousands of artifacts have already been recovered. It’s time to let the wreck be. The history of the Titanic will not be forgotten, nor will the people who perished there. 

Benjamin Dalenberg ’27 is an English major with an emphasis in creative writing from Franklin, Tenn. He can be reached at


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