Although they have spent more than a century at 3800 meters deep, the bottles still release scents of patchouli and rose. “In 2000, the Nautile came to the surface with Adolphe Saalfeld’s wallet,” recalls Matthew Tulloch, who dived four times to the wreck. This perfume merchant survived the sinking leaving his samples on board. When we opened them, our laboratory filled with wet and mud-covered objects filled with scents, it was an exceptional moment. These tubes exhibited at the Parc des Expositions in Paris, such as leather suitcases, gratin dishes, a diamond ring or sheet music represent 260 of the 5,500 objects brought to the surface. Luckily for the visitor, these souvenirs must be kept at 21° C. They are presented in the only hall of the Exhibition Center to be air-conditioned, a cost of 400,000 euros for production. Curiously, despite its size, this pavilion is not equipped with toilets.

If we refrain from looking up at the pipes of the industrial ceiling, the scenography is effective. At the entrance, the hostesses in striped sailor sweaters scan the tickets, replicas of the 1912 boarding pass. the movie Titanic, by James Cameron. As at Disneyland, the photo will be charged at the exit. Count 10 euros in addition to the ticket at 16.50 euros. Behind huge dark panels, we are projected back to 1909 in the Irish shipyards where the liner was designed. The visitor wanders among ropes on a rustic wooden floor. Large black and white photos of the sea monster being assembled, period films of workers at work, pulleys and other rivets brought up from the depths tell the story of the construction of the most majestic ship of the 20th century. A walkway allows you to board and here we are in the cozy corridor of the first classes where Strauss’s The Blue Danube resounds.

A real-size cabin reveals its washbasin whose taps close automatically to avoid waste. The grand three-storey oak staircase with its gilded cherub and its wrought iron and glass dome is impressive. A corridor leads to the third class cabins which, unlike other liners, were not dormitories but bunk beds. Darkness sets in, dull noises of machinery resound, we pass the boilers where 6000 tons of coal were stored. We emerge under the starry night. We have the right to put our hand on a mirror cut in the shape of an iceberg to imagine the death by hypothermia of 1500 people during the shipwreck on the night of April 14 to 15, 1912. Including that of René Pernot, one of the 49 French on board. The underwater exploration launched from the 1980s closes the course.

Like Tutankhamun, the Titanic fascinates crowds. The liner symbolizes wealth, the hope of migrants, sacrifice, death. It has become an international “brand” which is the subject of multiple exhibitions. If many fool visitors with photos of objects and an audio guide whose story is taken from Wikipedia, this one presents the objects brought to the surface by the French expert of the depths, Paul-Henri Nargeolet. “He should have been with us in Paris for the inauguration. This exhibition is the fruit of his work and his passion,” explains producer Pascal Bernardin, who bought the rights for France.

The death of “P. H.”, on June 18 in the implosion of the Titan submersible during a dive towards the Titanic with extremely wealthy passengers in search of thrills, casts unease and reinforces the curse around the liner. If “P. H.” was a consultant for OceanGate Expeditions, which invoiced these descents 250,000 dollars, this explorer, one of the best specialists in the world of the Titanic and the most experienced pilot in the world at these depths, was above all an employee of the EMG holding company. Owned by powerful American investment funds, EMG has two subsidiaries. RMS Titanic Inc. is mounting research expeditions around the wreck, the ninth of which is scheduled for 2024. “Our goal is to bring up ten iconic objects, including an access door to a bridge that will help us tell a story”, details Jessica Sanders, president of RMS Titanic Inc.

The second subsidiary, E/M Group, brings in money thanks to the conferences of its experts, to the exhibitions and to derivative products with a very American taste, such as these frames with coal washers reassembled from the Titanic sold between 35 and 239 euros with a certificate of authenticity. “RMS Titanic Inc. is the only one with the right to bring Titanic objects to the surface and display them on condition that they never be sold,” explains Jessica Sanders. Safe in a warehouse in Atlanta, these memories travel between our exhibitions. We have five in the United States, including two fixed in Las Vegas and Orlando and two traveling in Europe. We plan to go to Dubai because it is unknown, but several Middle Easterners, including Lebanese, were on board. There were also Chinese, which would make it possible to go to Macau. In Paris, exhibitions in 2003 and 2013 attracted between 160,000 and 200,000 visitors. This time, counting on the new generations, Pascal Bernardin hopes for more than 150,000.

“Titanic”, at Paris Expo, Porte de Versailles (Paris 15th), until September 10.