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Road Trip Friday is back, with a fun jaunt south to beautiful Branson, Missouri for a first experience. Greg accompanied me and of course my little travel mascot, Ferni the VW van, rode along too.
It’s been six years since I last visited Branson, home to a huge variety of attractions from music shows to the Silver Dollar City amusement park to outlet malls to interesting museums. My destination for this road trip was a museum I’ve wanted to visit for years and had yet to explore.
The Titanic Museum Branson Missouri is located at 3235 W 76 Country Blvd. There is a sister museum in Pigeon Ford, Tennessee as well.
We enjoyed lunch at a near by restaurant, explored the area for a bit and then arrived at the Titanic Museum ready to board the ship!
Why I Chose This Museum
I first became captivated by Titanic as a child. The story both fascinated me and horrified me. I didn’t realize then that my empathic abilities caused emotional overwhelm when encountering such catastrophic events. Even though I wanted to learn more, my little heart hurt and my intense sense of justice fired up over this tragedy. How could an unsinkable ship, sink? How could there not be enough lifeboats?
Fast forward to 1997 and the blockbuster film “Titanic“. I did not want to see the movie for fear I couldn’t handle it, emotionally. Apparently I was meant to view it though. After being tricked into seeing it at the theater, I did indeed find the movie difficult to watch. I thought my heart would explode.
However, after making it through that first viewing, I watched Titanic many more times. It’s one of my favorite films. And my love affair with the story grew. I discovered beauty in the lives of those who sailed on Titanic’s maiden voyage.
The Titanic Museum Branson Missouri opened on April 10, 2006. I finally stepped onboard on July 17, 2020.
Titanic Museum Branson Missouri
Due to COVID19, safety protocol that follows CDC guidelines is currently in place for this museum. Tickets must be purchased online HERE so that staff can limit the number of visitors per time slot.
Face masks that cover the mouth and nose are required at all times while in the museum. Staff wear them too. And social distancing is encouraged as well.
When we arrived I took a few photos outside. Photography is not allowed inside, and understandably so. The museum is full of artifacts and photos from the ship.
I received a text message about thirty minutes before our boarding time, asking us to remain in the car until time to board. A second text arrived a short time later, welcoming us onboard. It was time to go!
Every guest is handed a boarding pass. On the back of it is a name of one of Titanic’s passengers along with details about their life on the ship. Keep that boarding pass. You might discover more info about your person during the tour. And toward the end of the visit, you find out whether your person survived or not.
Each of us also received a device that plays informative messages about particular displays and objects in the museum. The tours are self guided and may be taken at your own pace.
Touring the Museum
Since I can’t post any photos from inside the museum, I’ll use my words to share highlights of this fascinating experience.
The museum asks the question:
“How do you pay respect to the 2,208 passengers and crew aboard RMS Titanic?
Their answer? You tell their stories, everyday.
Titanic’s keel was laid down in Belfast, Ireland on March 31, 1909. She launched May 31, 1911 and set sail on her maiden voyage April 10, 1912.
The ship measured 882 feet in length and 92 feet in width. From her hull to the top of her stacks she stood 175 feet tall, making her the height of a 17 story building. Her service speed was 21 knots.
Titanic contained over 3 million rivets and carried 5,892 tons of coal to fuel her furnaces.
There are photographs, drawings, models and videos in the first few sections of the museum that capture Titanic coming together. She truly was an amazing ship, the queen of the White Star Line, offering the best in accommodations for her passengers.
Because Titanic was considered unsinkable, only 20 lifeboats were added, rather than the 64 the plans called for.
The Maiden Voyage
The RMS Titanic set sail carrying 2208 passengers and crew. For her first voyage she sailed with 54% of her capacity. Onboard were 324 first class passengers, 276 second class passengers, 709 third class passengers and 899 crew members. Surprisingly, 12 dogs traveled on Titanic, housed in the kennels on F deck. Only three survived, tiny dogs carried onto lifeboats by their owners.
The RMS stands for Royal Mail Streamer. Titanic carried mail, under contract with the British Royal Mail, 3,243 sacks containing 2000 plus pieces of mail each.
Titanic carried some of the wealthiest people in the world at that time, along with hundreds of immigrants from England, Ireland and Scandinavia seeking a fresh start in America. Prominent guests included American millionaire John Jacob Astor IV and his wife, Macy’s owner Isidor Straus and his wife and Denver millionairess Molly Brown.
The ship’s designer, Thomas Andrew, traveled to observe any problems and assess the performance of the ship. He went down with Titanic.
Titanic’s captain, Edward Smith, carried the rank of commodore. He intended to retire after the ship’s first voyage. He remained on Titanic as she sank.
Father Browne’s Photo Collection
The museum is pleased to offer this incredible collection of photos from Father Francis Browne. This Jesuit priest with keen photography skills traveled on Titanic as she gathered passengers from Southampton, England, Cherbourg, France and Queenstown, Ireland.
Father Browne boarded in Southamptom and disembarked in Queenstown. He took many photographs of the ship and her passengers, including the last ever known photo of Titanic as she departed. Thanks to him we have a glimpse into Titanic’s world.
In this section of the museum, replicas of a third class room and hallway show the traveling conditions. Although they appear small and plain, they were considered extraordinary in Titanic’s day.
The Grand Staircase and First Class Suite
One of the most amazing sights in the museum is the replica of Titanic’s Grand Staircase. It is actual size and made from oak. At the top of those iconic stairs is the clock featured in the Titanic film, surrounded by two figures representing Honour and Glory crowning Time. This grand staircase, with its gold decor, glass chandeliers and stunning dome ceiling, marked the entrance to the first class section.
Additionally the staircase, which is 16 feet wide, extended 60 feet below on the ship, serving seven decks.
I loved pausing here for a moment, to take in this beautiful sight. I thought of Rose and Jack from the movie, meeting on this staircase.
Walking up the staircase, we viewed a replica of a first class suite, the one used by the Astors. Although not huge, it was much larger than the third class accommodations and nicely decorated.
Throughout the museum glass cases hold artifacts from the ship. These are not replicas. The items are from Titanic, obtained from families, private collections and pieces acquired by the museum. Every year they change artifacts at both museums to keep exhibits fresh.
We saw deck chairs, a life jacket, keys, a purse, silverware and silver serving pieces, baby shoes, dinner plates and serving dishes among other things. It’s amazing that these pieces remained intact. They provide a hint of the elegance of Titanic and give a peek into the personal lives of the passengers. I found the artifacts to be beautiful, in a haunting sort of way.
The Music Room
As we approached this room I heard a piano playing the theme song from the film Titanic. Sadness swept over me. Inside the room, a staff member, dressed appropriately in ship uniform, sat at the baby grand piano.
The room features large photographs of the eight musicians onboard Titanic. These men, members of a three piece ensemble and a five piece one, are well known for playing as the ship sank. The man finished playing the piano and then shared with us about each of these remarkable musicians.
Considered heroes, all eight men perished with the ship, playing music to keep the passengers calm. One second class passenger said:
“Many brave things were done that night, but none were more brave than those done by men playing minute after minute as the ship settled quietly lower and lower in the sea. The music they played served alike as their own immortal requiem and their right to be recalled on the scrolls of undying fame.”
Titanic Museum is the only place in the world that honors the eight musicians who sacrificed their lives that night.
As we neared the end of our tour, we explored the Captain’s Bridge with its brass instruments and large steering wheel. I noted that the wheel came from Edinburgh! Captain Smith, the officers and the quartermasters occupied the bridge. Each day the bridge crew was divided into six watches of five hours each.
Beyond the bridge we learned of that fateful night, April 14, 1912.
Four days into her maiden voyage, Titanic struck an iceberg at 11:40 pm. The ship steered south of the known ice field, however the crew received six warnings of sea ice in the area. Two lookouts in the crow’s nest spotted an iceberg straight ahead. With her speed at 22 knots, the ship could not turn quickly enough to avoid a glancing blow to her starboard side. Six of her sixteen compartments opened to the sea. Titanic’s “unsinkable” design could stay afloat with four compartments taking on water, but not six.
The shortage of lifeboats prompted crew to attempt boarding women and children first but in the chaos that protocol wasn’t strictly followed. And poor evacuation management meant that many boats launched before they were completely full.
Titanic sank in 2 hours and 40 minutes, in the early hours of April 15, with more than fifteen hundred passengers and crew still onboard. Many died on the ship. Others jumped or fell into the sea, however the water temperature that night was 28 degrees. Those exposed in the water died in minutes from the cold. The survivors numbered 705.
Hands On Room and Memorial Room
Designed with the youngest visitors in mind, the hands on room offers experiences such as stories from a staff member, activity books, the sloping decks of Titanic to climb on and a container of cold water. The water is the same temperature as the sea the night Titanic sank. Putting my fingers into the water was a shock. It hurt my heart to think of people…men, women and children…struggling in that icy water.
Entering the Memorial Room is a somber experience. On one wall is a list of all of the passengers and crew. Underlined names indicate survivors. Names in italics show those people perished.
It was time to see if the people on our boarding passes survived or died.
My lady, Emma Bliss, was 45 years old. One of 23 female stewardess on Titanic, her duties included taking care of the women in first class. As Titanic foundered, an older man offered Emma a seat on one of the last lifeboats leaving the ship. He said he had lived his life, but hers was still ahead of her. That man sacrificed his life for hers. Emma survived the sinking of the Titanic and lived to the age of 93. Greg’s person, a crewman who jumped into the water and swam to a lifeboat, survived as well.
It was touching, watching museum guests look for their “people”, hoping that they survived. My eyes filled with tears as I heard one teenage boy looking frantically not for his person, but for the man’s children. “I have to find my children” he kept saying. I don’t know if he found them as survivors or not but what a poignant moment that sadly echoed a long ago reality.
I so enjoyed experiencing the Titanic Museum Branson Missouri. There is more to explore, learn and appreciate within the museum than what I shared. I’ve been reading about Titanic since my childhood and watching documentaries and I still learned new things wandering through the museum.
The staff is courteous and helpful, the displays respectful and educational and the overall atmosphere amazing. And there is a gift shop at the exit, full of fun items available for purchase.
I’m grateful that I finally toured this wonderful museum. Titanic continues to captivate me and now her story and those of her passengers and crew rest in my heart as well.
Long may she be remembered and those stories told. We must not forget.
Road Trip Fridays
I’m loving these monthly road trips, to destinations within 150 miles from Joplin. Check out last month’s trip to Philbrook Museum Gardens in Tulsa, Oklahoma. And stay tuned for an exciting historical experience already scheduled for August!
Titanic Finds from Amazon:
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