XENIA — Mark Shaw doesn’t consider himself “king of the world” — but when it comes to Titanic memorabilia the Xenia resident is royalty.
The 48-year-old has virtually every movie and book, posters, pictures and “action figures” depicting various characters — all revolving around the British passenger liner that sank in 1912. Putting Shaw’s collection over the top are myriad authenticated pieces from the actual boat herself including a part of the aft grand staircase.
A spare room in his home has been converted into a wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling shrine. Shaw and his wife, Darla — whom he met four years ago — even dress the part when discussing the ship. Mark Shaw dons a tuxedo while Darla Shaw puts on an evening gown circa 1912. Their marriage was at the Titanic Pigeon Forge museum in Tennessee and they have several tattoos, including one across Darla’s upper back.
“I was about 8 when it started for me,” Mark Shaw said. That was when he watched “A Night To Remember,” the movie adapted from Walter Lord’s book of the same name.
Shaw’s parents bought him some models and other kid-friendly collectibles and then when Robert Ballard discovered the wreckage in 1985 Shaw’s interest was re-sparked.
“From there it was just collecting,” he said.
But it’s not as easy as it sounds.
“You can’t just go out and buy Titanic artifacts,” Shaw said.
Titanic collectors make up a close-knit family which sells items to buy other items. Shaw’s dedication earned him a spot inside that elite circle.
“They have considered us prominent collectors through the Pigeon Forge museum,” he said. “There are things in (my) collection that are one-of-a-kind items. We hunt for it. We don’t just go with the big-time stuff.”
In all, he has 11 items and has spent thousands. One of the previous owners of the grand staircase piece is writer and Titanic historian Steve Santini. Among the more interesting items are documents from some prestigious passengers who did not survive — including English journalist William Thomas Stead — and signatures of 13 who did live.
“For me that’s the more rare items,” Shaw said.
He also became friends with Lord and Millvina Dean, the last living survivor, who died in 2009.
“She would write me from Southampton, England,” Shaw said.
The Shaws have not kept their collection to themselves.
When the 1997 film “Titanic” was released Mark Shaw — who was living in Colorado at the time — decided to go public. He was hired by Barnes and Noble to be a guest lecturer on the topic and began showing his memorabilia at various shows.
They are hoping to to continue that and maybe find a bitter space for what they currently possess.
“We’re trying to create our own small museum,” Mark Shaw said. “This is what we like to do.”
He said the Greene County Historical Society along with the Jamestown Opera House are interested in some type of event featuring his memorabilia.
“We really want other people to see what we have,” Darla Shaw said.
There is one other area connection to the Titanic. Shaw said Phillip Zennie, one of the survivors, is buried in Calvary Cemetery in Dayton.
Mark and Darla Shaw, dressed in Titanic-era clothing, show off their vast collection about the sunken ship.
Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.
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