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By Heather May of the The Salt Lake Tribune
© Copyright 2004, The Salt Lake Tribune.

The latest effort to keep downtown Salt Lake City afloat involves raising the Titanic.

The Utah Museum of Natural History and the LDS Church's Zions Securities are in negotiations to bring a traveling exhibit that displays artifacts from the famous sunken ocean liner into empty space this summer at Main Street's ZCMI Center.

“Nothing is signed," museum director Sarah George stressed Thursday. "If it comes, it will be in the ZCMI mall. It's a great location."

The museum would rent the exhibit from RMS Titanic Inc., which was given exclusive rights to recover artifacts from the Titanic wreck site. According to the RMS Web site, the company has recovered 6,000 artifacts, ranging from a 17-ton portion of the hull to a tiny marble.

The legendary ship sank off the coast of Newfoundland in 1912. The ship lies 2.5 miles beneath the ocean surface and is too fragile to raise, according to the Web site.

But its artifacts have been seen by 14 million people around the world, according to RMS Titanic. The exhibit is called "Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition."

Salt Lake City leaders hope Utahns are next to see the exhibit. David Jensen, senior vice president of Zions Securities, which owns ZCMI Center, said he wants the exhibit to open in the summer and stay through December. He heard that RMS Titanic was interested in placing an exhibit in Salt Lake City, and Jensen called to offer the mall.

"We're pretty confident it's all going to come together," he said. "We're just delighted to see [the exhibit] come into our community. It is probably the finest museum exhibit that's going around the country now."

Jensen said the artifacts would likely be displayed in the 15,000-foot space that Gart Sports abandoned. He added that no mall tenants would be displaced.

“Anything like that, that is unique, that brings people downtown is a good thing," said Councilman Dave Buhler.

Similar Titanic exhibits are now being displayed in Alabama, North Carolina and Florida. Web sites say they explain how the ship was built, what life was like on the boat, how it sunk and how artifacts were recovered. RMS says the artifacts are shown in a "dignified manner; one that embodies respect for those who lost their lives."

At one point, The Gateway could have housed the show. Ted Phillips, spokesman for Salt Lake County Mayor Nancy Workman, said it would have been placed where The Children's Museum of Utah will go, but the timing wasn't right.

In conjunction with the exhibit, the county's Clark Planetarium -- also at Gateway -- would have shown a movie about the shipwreck on its IMAX screen. Phillips said that won't happen if the exhibit goes to ZCMI Center because the four blocks between Main Street and Gateway is too far to tie the two together.

By Heather May of the The Salt Lake Tribune
| The Tribune is the largest daily newspaper in Utah

© Copyright 2004, The Salt Lake Tribune.

The Tribune is the largest daily newspaper in Utah
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