Cynthia Billotte doesn't consider herself a history buff.
But take one look around her Hollidaysburg home, and it's easy to see that she's pretty interested one specific event from the past.
Billotte said she bought her first book about the Titanic at a library book sale when she was 20 years old. Now, she's the owner of dozens of collectible items that commemorate the ship and the 1997 feature film.
Mirror photos by Gary M. Baranec
Cynthia Billotte’s Hollidaysburg home is filled with Titanic collectibles, including this bench used in the 1997 James Cameron movie.
She said it's "just the fascination" that has kept her collecting for over 30 years.
"I read the book, and I was hooked as far as starting to collect, and I have been ever since," Billotte said. "It's because of the historical aspect, as well as the tragedy."
Billotte started out by acquiring more books, postcards and games. But as the "unsinkable" ship gained popularity with the discovery of its wreckage in 1985 and the release of the movie, Billotte's collection also got bigger. It now includes a prop bench from the movie, a poster signed by the actors, a replica of the "Heart of the Ocean" necklace and a piece of the Styrofoam "iceberg" that wrecked the movie ship.
Billotte has already seen the 3-D re-release of the movie, and said she likes it because watching the movie was the first time she was really able to see inside of the ship.
"There are pictures taken inside of the Titanic, but they're all black and white," she said. "That was the first time that I saw everything in color. It was just, that was the ultimate. I'm sure other collectors felt the same way."
In the observance of the 100th anniversary of the Titanic's sinking, a variety of Billotte's commemorative items are on display at the Hollidaysburg Area Public Library.
Crystal Chrissman, manager of adult circulation for the library, said it's "been wonderful" to have the display and make people more aware of the anniversary.
"Most people can't believe that somebody in particular owns all that," she said.
Andrea Boland, president of the Friends of the Hollidaysburg Library, the group that coordinates the displays, said they were planning to have one for Easter before Billotte mentioned her collection of Titanic items.
"We just thought 'Oh, well, if the 100th anniversary is coming, Easter comes every year,'" Boland said.
Billotte said she's glad that people are talking about the anniversary so that it can get more exposure.
"But people come and go with it," she said. "I kind of reverence it. It's not just a ship, it's not just a movie, it's a tragedy, and it really happened. I don't think it should be taken lightly."
Billotte hopes that the display will also spark the interest of a new generation to learn about the Titanic and about history in general.
"When I found out about it, it was in a history book on one page, and that was it," Billotte said. "But kids are studying it a lot more now, so they already have the interest. I thought if they saw this stuff, they'd get excited.
"I think history is important, fascinating actually."
Mirror Staff Writer Beth Ann Downey is at 946-7520.