When we left off, we had just had dinner in Pigeon Forge and were about to head off to the Titanic Museum, billed as “the world’s largest Titanic museum attraction,” to finish the evening.
I was very curious about this place. Nearly all the blog reports I could find were from people who got comp tickets. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But. Well, you know. I actually considered getting in touch with them to see if they’d give us some of those blogger freebie tickets, too, but then I decided to be the only blogger in history to actually pay to the get in. For YOU, dear readers. In addition to the Pigeon Forge location, there’s another one in Branson, Missouri. The “museum attractions” are full of all kinds of actual artifacts from the Titanic, and Pigeon Forge and Branson just seem like kind of weird choices of locale for something that seems to actually be taking itself seriously. So: curious.
We bought the tickets online, and they were running some kind of special….we ended up paying around $70 for a family pass that was good for 2 adults and up to 4 kids. This was by far the best deal for us, even though we wouldn’t have needed a ticket for Abe….largely because the 4 kids on the family pass can be up to 18, but we would have needed to buy an adult ticket for Ari if we’d bought individual tickets. Anyway, for $70 for all of us, I thought this was a fairly good deal. Had we paid the full regular prices, I would have felt like it was pretty steep. If we’d gotten free tickets, it would have been TOTALLY worth it ;).
You’re not allowed to take pictures inside the Titanic museum. In fact, you’re supposed to turn your phone completely off, lest it “trigger the alarms.” They tell you that this is all because of copyright laws. I’m not sure why pretty much no other museum in the country knows about these copyright laws (including the Smithsonian, which is right there in the city where they MAKE the copyright laws), but….whatever. Truth be told, it was sort of nice to have an excuse to ignore the camera for awhile and not worry about pictures; pictures in indoor places like that are never anything great anyway, in my experience.
We did take pictures outside:
As you go in, you get a card with a real passenger from the Titanic’s name and information, and then at the end you can check to see if you lived or died. Which is a little….I dunno. Creepy? I see what they’re going for; trying to make it real for everyone and all, but I’m not sure how I feel about it. Honestly, I think it’s probably pretty hard to figure out the right tone to strike with a Titanic museum. I mean, it’s just the truth that people are fascinated by The Titanic both because it’s a tragic story AND because the setting for the tragic story is this big, opulent ship that’s pretty to look at and interesting to see little cut away models of with miniature grand staircases and whatnot. And said cutaway model is right there in the first room. It was very interesting to look at.
Okay, so we went in and turned off our cell phones, and the employees (all dressed in period costumes, of course) gave us things to wear around our necks so we could listen to the audio tour as we went. There’s one for adults and a different one for kids that involves a scavenger hunt (Milo and Gus really liked this).
Then you go through a series of rooms with exhibits about the Titanic and lots of artifacts, photos, etc. from it. Loosely, it starts out with exhibits about the building of it and the people who worked on the ship and the mechanics of it all; there’s a place where you can pretend to shovel coal to keep the engines going, and that kept the kids busy for awhile. Then it progresses to talking about the different parts of the ship and taking you through third class (with a recreation of a third class room) and on to first class (another, much bigger, room recreation).
There’s quite a bit of emphasis on the dogs on the Titanic. Which is fascinating to me because of this time when I first moved to Boston and worked at a Record Town in a northern suburb for a few months, the summer before I started grad school. It was right before Titanic the movie was coming out on DVD (and, I imagine, VHS at the point), and I had to ask every single customer if they wanted to pre-order a copy. Titanic infiltrated my brain so much that summer that I had regular nightmares in which I was a passenger on the Titanic along with my dog, Oliver, and they wouldn’t let me bring Oliver on the lifeboat with me. Which was totally wrong of them, because Oliver only weighed 20 pounds, and anyone who’s been to the Titanic museum (or, you know, read a book or seen the movie or whatever) knows they sent a bunch of those lifeboats out half full anyway. /tangent
Aside from the coal shoveling, there’s not a lot of hands on stuff for kids here (until the end, which I’ll get to), but my 9-14 year olds were plenty interested in the exhibits and audio tour (I don’t know that they spent a whole lot of time actually reading the signs). Abe was definitely too young to get a whole lot out of it, but it was spacious enough (and uncrowded when we were there) and had enough interesting things to look at that he did okay.
They really hype up the full size replica of the Grand Staircase that you can see and walk up. Honestly? It seemed kind of….small. Maybe just because of all the hype leading up to it. I bet fancy ships today have grander grand staircases. But it was pretty cool.
Towards the end things take on a more somber tone; there’s a room with a big “iceberg” that you can touch and a pool of water so you can feel how cold it was. And they follow this up with…..the kids’ play area! Heh.
This last room has some hands on stuff for kids; a game where you try to steer the ship away from the iceberg, some knot building stuff, etc.
And then you go find out if you died or not. Only Dave and I did, which makes me think they might kind of slant the kid cards toward the not dead kids. Which is probably a good thing. Overall, we spent around an hour and a half here. We probably would have topped 2 hours if we’d had just the older kids with us (or if it hadn’t been so late and pushing in on Abe’s bedtime).
Overall? I was pretty impressed. The kids all really enjoyed it. I thought it was very well done and really interesting. I am, as I mentioned, vaguely uncomfortable with the concept of turning the Titanic into a for profit tourist attraction, but it was pretty respectful and not as sensationalized as I feared. One part that did bother me was the (lack of) treatment of class issues. We all know that the third classes passengers were a lot less likely to make it onto a lifeboat than the first class ones, but there’s little mention of that here. In fact, most the talk about third class is to point out how comfortable it was compared to the steerage sections on most ships of the day. The only attention I saw paid to the skewed death count for poor folks was in a display toward the very end where they gave percentages of people who survived from each class, without any additional commentary about it (it’s 61% of first class and 24% of third class, by the way).
And I have one last installment (back to the National Park!), coming up…..uhh, soon.