I'd like to start off by saying that this is a sore thumb in Branson's landscape. I can imagine people seeing it in far-off pictures being thoroughly confused.
Sadly, this is where my photography ends. These people are copyright Nazis, and won't stand for anyone taking pictures inside the museum. My stepsister just tried to take a picture of the entrance, and got called out for it.
Now that I have that cleared up: welcome back to Branson, people, after 2 years. This time, Joey and I are revisiting the Titanic museum. We once visited this place back in 2008, when we went to Arkansas to avoid Hurricane Gustav, and now we're taking our new blended family on the same trip. I'm the odd guy out, though, as aside from Will, I'm the only one in my family who knows a good amount about the Titanic. Ever since I set foot on the SS Natchez back in March 2011, maritime matters has more or less been one of my big interests, and as a sort of side effect, the Titanic as well.
The minute you pay to enter, you're given a mockup of a "boarding pass" to keep with you through the tour, and keep as a souvenir if you so wish. The pass has two sides. The front has basic information regarding the museum itself. The back has the name, info, and brief biography of a certain passenger on it. The ending of the tour sports a wall containing the names of every passenger, with underlined names being survivors, allowing you to check and see if your pass-selected person survived. Regarding the passes: these have changed significantly since my last trip to this museum, where the passes were fold-open instead of simply two-sided, and the museum's info was on the back. In addition, they've since started writing the biographies from first-person points of view instead of third-person. My previous pass from 2008 had the identity of Samuel Francis "Sid" Sedunary, a crew member from Southampton who served as a steward on the sailing. This time? Thomas. Freaking. Andrews. Yes, of all people, I got the designer of the ship, which was quite exciting to me. Unfortunately, this spoiled the ending for me - I knew from the beginning Andrews died in the sinking.
The museum is a self-guided tour. In this case, every guest gets an audio player to carry with them through the museum, and certain exhibits are marked with numbers. Whoever wants to hear the audio player's elaboration on the exhibit in question can punch in the number and get a playback of its description. I, being able to understand what most of the exhibits were on sight, never used mine, but still carried it regardless.
(Note: before I go into detail on the tour itself, bear in mind that thanks to the sheer amount of places we visited on this day, my memory of the museum is significantly fuzzy and fragmented. Forgive me if I get things out of order.)
Immediately after leaving the lobby, the first item on display is a life jacket preserved from the disaster; specifically, the one worn by none other than Madeleine Astor. You could say I'm easily impressed, but this was one of my favorite exhibits in the entire museum, but why, I have no idea. It could be that I was just impressed with how well-preserved it was. From that point, the tour segued into a section that gave statistics and perspectives about the ship, such as how long it was when compared to, say, the height of the Met Life Tower.
Soon after was an area designed in the style of that of Titanic's first class corridors, with small windows featuring exhibits centered around the first class passengers. One that I distinctly remember is a letter one passenger wrote to a relative in the States, prior to the sailing. I can't recall what this letter read, sadly, since we passed by it a bit quickly. Similarly to what I'll touch on later, they also made a full-scale recreation of a first class cabin, and even went as far as to incorporate a wooden support beam literally preserved from a first class cabin on the Olympic to supplement the effect.
With first class out of the way, the tour then transitioned into second class. One of the things my stepsister and I were quite drawn to in this section, for whatever reason, was a wall of small modelings of the ship's interiors. This included the boiler rooms as well as the first and second class dining rooms. Below this was a panel of buttons with labels corresponding to the model rooms. Pushing a certain button would slightly brighten the lighting for the corresponding room, pointing out which was which. (I was attracted to the thing with the big red buttons...I know, right?)
First, second, what's next? Well, we've got Who's on first, What's on second, and I don't know...oh, right, third base.
No, you fool, third class.
This was my favorite of the class sections. The museum's makers went a long way to describe the conditions in third class, even going as far as to create another full-scale replica of a third class cabin (in other words: hell for a whole family!). Of course, the hallways matched the theme here as always (Hallways, always, that's hard to say, is it not?). Other than that, this is another one of those points where my bad memory hates me, which is a shame, since I loved this bit. Oh well...
Well, now the classes are done. School's out, children!
I should stop making bad jokes like that. They can hurt people on a physical and (maybe) spiritual level.
Until this point, my stepsister kept pestering me and Joey, asking if the museum had a second floor. Well, after leaving third class, we got to the staircase. Can you take a wild guess what it is? I'll tell you: None other than a recreation of the Grand Staircase. That was a nice touch for people who've seen the movie, at least.
On the second floor is where visitors find more miscellaneous exhibits. To me, one that stood out was an entire section dedicated to the famed band led by Wallace Hartley, best known for playing "Nearer My God to Thee" in the closing moments of the sinking. Every band member had a large portrait put up in this room, and whether it was descendants or simply random visitors who passed by, every portrait (especially Hartley's) had flowers and other things placed below it. A little representation of respect in this world, if you will. Not far from this was a balcony overlooking the lobby, and giving us a view of something very obvious that I completely missed while in the lobby: a replica of one of the ship's propellers dangling from the ceiling. I was extremely confused when I first saw this, before realizing what it actually was, and then being somewhat surprised.
And then, of course, the sink of freezing water. This is a thing designed to demonstrate to bypassers how viciously cold the waters were during the sinking. Visitors can simply put their hand in the sink, and see how long they can keep it in for before losing all feeling in said hand. There's even a large stopwatch-esque timer sitting next to it, for good measure. I had tried this in 2008, and barely lasted about 10 seconds before pulling out of it.
I can only remember one thing after this: the ending. Oh boy, do I hate it when museums and related attractions do this: make a gift shop the ending. The crowning moment of absurd here was when I saw a necklace styled after the "Heart of the Ocean" from the film, and when my mom even considered buying it, my eyes set to rolling.
Overall, for people with even rudimentary knowledge about the Titanic, it's a solid experience. Even I learned a good few things from it, partially thanks to the little trivia rollers dotted along the walls.
Now if you'll excuse me, I'm gonna go get the Titanic trilogy by Gordon Korman out of my bookshelf. That deserves an amazing review of its own.
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