I’ve been saving this article for last, not because I want to keep it to myself, but because of many things I experienced in Pigeon Forge, TN on my recent trip to Brandcation, The Titanic Museum Attraction was the most surprising.
To be honest, I’m not sure that this enormous boat in the middle of the Smokies would have been something that I would have done with my family had we been on vacation there. I typically enjoy thrilling, humorous exhibits when I’m on vacation, and I thought I knew all there was to know about the Titanic. What I didn’t know, were the stories of the people on board, and that’s what this attraction begs to offer.
I really feel like a cad now, and not because The Titanic Museum Attraction put on a spectacular show for us, but because the entire exhibit is absolutely breathtaking.
We arrived to a spectacular spread of food with the creamiest cheesy hash browns to ever be made, and the crunchiest Crème brûlée french toast to ever grace the plates that we ate off of. They gifted each of us a Titanicopoly game and a calendar, as well as a plethora of other goodies that had been used as decoration like pencils and suckers with polar bears on them. We were greeted by Mary Joslyn, who is co-owner of the exhibit. You may recognize her name from her tenure at Disney, or from her extensive resume as a television producer. It was an honor to have her speak to us about the exhibit and her husband, ^John Joslyn who acted as co-expedition leader on the team that ran salvage on the RMS Titanic in 1987.
After speaking with Mrs. Joslyn, we all received boarding passes from actual passengers who had been on the Titanic. The boarding pass said our names, whether we were 1st class, 2nd class, or 3rd class passengers, and told a little bit about us. We were to look for artifacts from our passengers as we toured the museum, and then visit the Memorial Wall at the end to find out whether or not we had survived the fateful iceberg collision.
I grabbed my boarding pass, hoping to see royalty and was disappointed to find out that I was a lowly 3rd class passengers. I joked with some people around me who were also 3rd class passengers, and playfully tried to steal the 1st class boarding pass of a fellow blogger. We walked into he main hallway where we received our listening devices, and were let loose onto the ship. The museum started off with the very beginnings of the RMS Titanic, right in the shipyard. It was interesting to hear about the history of the ship, how and why it was built, and all of the logistics surrounding its creation.
As we moved on, we got to know some of the crew members and passengers aboard the ship. I was absolutely fascinated by a budding photographer and Jesuit seminary student named Father Browne who took the only surviving photos of passengers aboard the RMS Titanic. He was only on board the ship as it sailed from Southampton, England to Cherbourg, France, to Queenstown, Ireland. There, he departed the ship with the only photographs that became the cornerstone photos for life aboard the RMS Titanic.
I was captivated by the photo of little Robert Douglass Spedden who was captured on one of the decks playing with his top. It is the only photograph of a child on board the Titanic. Little Mr. Spedden had a fantastic story about losing his stuffed polar bear during the sinking of the ship. It was later returned to him and his mother wrote a book for him a year later, chronicling the tale of “Titanic the Polar Bear”. I purchased the book for my daughter in the gift shop.
We read the tales of people who lived and died after the crash and it struck me that my passenger, Ida Ilmankangas was a regular person. She was a young woman on her way to America and her 3rd class ticket meant nothing other than the fact that she didn’t get to enjoy the same luxuries as a 1st class passenger. Her life was no less important than my very own. She had a future waiting for her in America, and I felt like a real jerk for being disappointed that I had been given her boarding pass.
I couldn’t stop reading each and every plaque about the people and the ship, and the logistics of running a ship like the RMS Titanic. I’m not an overly emotional person and I found my eyes welling with tears on more than one occasion. We made our way to the Grande Staircase which was constructed from the blueprints of the RMS Titanic. It is an identical replica, right down to the flooring which was made of a material that was more expensive than marble and granite combined at the time. Can you guess what it was? (Answer in red at the bottom)
We climbed the Grande Staircase and entered a room where we learned of a first class couple who sat in deck chairs, holding hands as the ship went down. The man’s wife wouldn’t leave his side as the ship sank because they had been together in life and would also be together in death. The actress who delivered the story for us also gave us cost comparison on tickets then and now to ride the Titanic across the Atlantic. I realized that even in today’s times, I would be barely able to afford a 3rd class ticket aboard the RMS Titanic.
We ventured into the wheel room to see a life-size replica of where the ship was steered and learned about what each box and wheel did for the ship.
We then made our way into a freezing cold room that had an iceberg rising out of the floor, and a stream of 28* water to stick your hand in for as long as you could. I went 30 seconds before my hand started to ache and I had to pull it out. It really hit hard, knowing that so many people lost their lives to this frigid, icy water.
The memorial wall was next and I found my passenger’s name, where? I won’t tell you.
I left The Titanic Museum Attraction full of emotion and with a great appreciation for each life that was lost during the collision. Even writing this has been an emotional experience.
DO NOT count this exhibit out on your next trip to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. You might be surprised to find that you spend 4 hours inside, reading everything and absorbing every word. There are interactive areas that your children will also love, and because each person gets a device that speaks to you, children will be able to enjoy the exhibit while you read and listen away. It is a definite must-see. I look forward to going back some time very, very soon.
Did you guess LINOLEUM?
I must extend an enormous thank-you to The Titanic Museum Attraction for welcoming us so warmly. It was an honor to be invited aboard the RMS Titanic and to experience it in its entirety.
Images used courtesy Titanic Museum Attraction
^Titanic Museum Attraction Co-owner John Joslyn Will Address Tennessee Hospitality
Association.” Free Press Release Distribution Service. Ackermann PR, 06 Sept. 2011. Web. 24 Oct. 2012. <http://www.prlog.org/11649403-titanic-museum-attraction-co-owner-john-joslyn-will-address-tennessee-hospitality-association.html>.