Park remembers Titanic survivors in exhibit


Shelby Adkins

Headshots of Sylvia Caldwell and her husband Albert Caldwell displayed in the exhibit.

Shelby Adkins, Reporter

Park University Archivist Carolyn Elwess, with the help of archives intern Ashlyn Weber, has curated an exhibit featuring artifacts and memorabilia from the Titanic. It went on display in the Frances Fishburn Archives on April 12 and will stay up until after graduation.

Elwess first featured this information in 1997 after the success of the movie Titanic. The unique historical connection that Park University – or Park College, as it was at that time – had with the Titanic drew massive media attention. The exhibit was also put on display in 2012 to mark the centennial of the Titanic’s sinking.

Two Park alumni were on the Titanic, traveling home from what is now known as Thailand where they had been missionaries. They were accompanied by their 10-month-old son, who is probably much of the reason they survived the sinking ship.

The Caldwells, Albert and Silvia, attended Park College in the early 1900s and graduated with the class of 1909. After graduation, they took jobs in Thailand.

Ironically, Albert Caldwell fought very hard to get them on that boat. Silvia Caldwell had issues with seasickness on their journey to England. Albert Caldwell believed the Titanic would make for a much smoother ride because of its size.

The exhibit features many artifacts from the time period, such as sheet music, poems, books, original photographs of the Caldwells, as well as things such as Titanic-themed fireworks, playing cards and change jars.

Park University also has a highly sought-after photo of the ship before it sailed.

“A few years after the big panic over the Titanic I got an email from a woman who is a great niece of Albert,” Elwess said. “She was piecing through an old family album, she found a photograph, extremely rare, of the family on the deck of the Titanic before it left England. Obviously, they must have had someone see them off and take the picture and mailed it to them later.”

This picture, along with a slew of other items included in the exhibit, is displayed to tell the story of the Titanic from the perspective of the Caldwells, as well as what the people of that time were experiencing.

The people of Park University have a unique opportunity to explore some of the original artifacts that came out of this historic event, while also learning about a historical connection so tightly tied to this school.

“Most people don’t realize how incredibly diverse the school’s history is, and we have some amazing stories that so few people know about,” said Weber, a public history major. “Our jobs are to show those details, present those stories and educate, so this Titanic exhibit is our chance to give people that pass, a chance to learn more about the wonderful institution they attend. We really want people to go home learning something new.”