Profit or preservation? Debate rages over Titanic treasures

Profit or preservation? Debate rages over Titanic treasures

EUGENE, Ore. -- The Titanic captivated the world when it sank in 1912. And it’s continued to fascinate for generations. Now, $200 million-worth of Titanic treasures are up for auction April 15th—100 years to the day after the ship set sail.

But as the centennial approaches, a Eugene archaeologist, said he strongly objects to the removal and auction of the artifacts from the ship.
 
“I don’t think the site has been treated properly,” said archaeologist Richard Pettigrew, at his home office in Eugene on Friday.  “It hasn’t been treated scientifically, or with the kind of respect that it should be treated with, and that’s why I’m objecting to it.”
 
Pettigrew said for-profit removal of Titanic artifacts was flawed from the get-o.
 
“Imagine a crime scene: when police arrive on the scene they section if off to prevent people from disturbing the evidence. Right?” said Pettigrew ,as he sat in his chair with a picture of the Titanic on his desk top computer behind him. “Well, that’s what an archaeology site is.”
 
Pettigrew said scientists, archaeologists and historians should be in charge of the removal and preservation of artifacts from the Titanic site—not private companies.
 
"The Titanic is in fact a grave site where more than 1,500 people died," he said.
 
RMS Titanic Inc., the company collecting the artifacts since 1987, did not respond to KVAL’s request for comment.
 
But on its web site, the company said it is dedicated to preservation of the Titanic for educational and historical purposes.
 
Pettigrew said he’s not against companies making money, but not when the public has to pay the price.
 
“I think archaeology is really a way for us to look into our rearview mirror and to understand where we came from and to reconnect with some basic elements of our humanity,” he added.
 
The Titanic wreckage site is in international waters. Pettigrew said this is why RMS Titanic Inc. and other companies have been able to profit since its discovery in 1985.