For those who might be wondering where we have been and why we have fallen off the radar… we have spent the last few days in Branson, Missouri enjoying this wonderful area of the country.
It has been so nice putting down roots for more than a night and enjoying our campground for an extended stay. The lack of travel means a lack of time to blog, as we have been making the most of our last week of vacation, making many memories and enjoying our family time together.
Today we headed into downtown Branson, to visit the Titanic Museum.
The girls and I were especially excited about this museum tour, being lovers of history and stories of human nature.
We went into the experience knowing that photography would not be allowed because of federal copyright laws, a bummer for this blogger who loves recording our experiences with photos, so instead the photos you will see from inside the museum were all taken from Google images.
(We were able to take some photos of the outside of the museum…an impressive piece of architecture in its own right!)
Everyone knows the story of the RMS Titanic. The remarkable sink-proof luxury ocean liner that met disaster on her maiden voyage, becoming the the largest maritime disaster of that time. The loss of life was horrific. Over 1,500 men, women and children perished on the night of April 15th, 1912.
This museum, dedicated to educating the public through interactive displays walks you through the story of the Titanic- from building the ship, to boarding, to the fateful disaster.
Our self-guided tour can not be described as “fun.” It was too solemn an experience for that, but it was incredibly moving and thought provoking as we viewed photos of the faces of those that excitedly stepped on board the ship in the United Kingdom. The world was watching and the people were excited as the largest ship ever made set sail for America with First, Second and Third Class passengers.
While waiting in line to enter the museum, we were each handed a boarding pass with the name of a passenger.
The little boys were given the boarding pass for young male passengers (2 of 133 children that were aboard the Titanic), and the rest of us received boarding passes for men or women that were on the Titanic. My pass bore the name of Emma Bliss, a 45 year old stewardess who was the oldest female crew member on the ship.
As we toured the museum we kept our eyes open for mention of our individual passengers in the various displays.
Entering the Titanic museum felt almost hushed, as we began to move through the exhibits, solemn as though we needed to pay our respects. We were each given an audio wand that corresponded to numbers throughout the museum. We would punch in the reference number and hold the audio wand to our ear to receive additional information about that display. Often the recordings would be actual testimonials and stories of Titanic survivors that were recorded in their own voice before they passed away.
The last survivor passed away in 2009, so to have these audio journals of the survivors is a real historical treasure.
(There were separate numbers on the displays that corresponded to a recording describing the display that were more kid friendly in their length and information…Perfect for Tyler.)
As we walked through the museum we learned just how long it took to build the Titanic and how many workers it took. We saw how large the Titanic truly was thanks to a scale model.
We also viewed rare photos in the Father Frank Browne collection. Father Browne sailed on the Titanic from Southampton, England to Queenstown, Ireland via Cherbourg, France where he departed the ship, even though he’d received an offer to accompany a wealthy American couple to NYC. I can only imagine the relief and despair he must have felt at news of the disaster just days later. Father Browne’s photographs are some of the only photographic evidence of life on the Titanic before the fateful disaster, and integral in telling the story of the Titanic as they offer that human element that reconstructed rooms and surviving artifacts alone, fail to do.
His photos are the faces of the Titanic. Some of his photos include a picture captured of the Captain and his dog.
Another moving area of the museum was the musicians’ room, an area of the museum that tells the story and celebrates the heroics of the seven musicians on board who bravely stayed on deck and played as the Titanic sunk below the icy waves in an effort to calm the passengers in the midst of the tragedy.
The head musician was Wallace Hartley.
While there is some debate which song was the final song played before the ship sank (There are 5 different songs that passengers record as the final song) It is widely believed that “Nearer My God to Thee” was the final song played.
The story of Wallace Hartley was told by a member of the crew in the music room. Upon completing his oratory of this unsung hero the worker sat down at the grand piano that sat in the middle of the musicians’ portraits and biographies, and played “Nearer My God to Thee.” As we quietly walked around the room looking into the eyes of those black and white portraits, and listening to the hymn play, we had the opportunity to consider their unique bravery in the Titanic story.
“Nearer My God to Thee” was not only the final song he played but also the song that was played at his funeral, as it was always his favorite hymn.
From there we climbed to the second floor of the museum along a scale replica of the beautiful Grand Staircase where a costumed docent checked our boarding passes before granting access to the First Class quarters.
We stopped for a moment to really take in the grandeur of that staircase, so familiar to those who have seen the Titanic movie.
In the museum, in addition to enjoying magnificent Titanic artifacts like the menu of the final dinner, we were also able to see a replica of a 3rd class room, a 1st class suite,
and the bridge where Rusty’s boarding pass crew member tried to save Titanic from the inevitable collision with the iceberg.
There were a mere 37 seconds to try to change the fate of the ship from the moment the iceberg was spotted until contact was made. Then only a short 2 hours and 40 minutes from impact until she sank below the waves, taking many lives with her.
From the bridge we stepped onto the promenade which was cooled to the chilling air temperatures felt on the deck of the Titanic the night of its sinking.
The reality of what it would have been like on the deck of the sinking Titanic is brought to life with a display where we were able to try to walk up a mock ship’s deck which is slanted at varying degrees as the ship sank:
The ship at 1:50 am as it tilted at a 12 degree slope.
The ship at 2:05 as the ship tilted at a 30 degree slope.
And the ship at 2:18 as it tilted at a 45 degree slope.
It was chilling and unreal to imagine trying to move to safety as the ship tilted at such extreme angles.
We also learned how to send an SOS signal and we were able to dip our hands into 28 degree water (the temperature of the water the night the Titanic went down) to see how long we could keep our hand under the water. It was painfully cold and none of us could hold our hand in place longer than 30 seconds. I can’t even imagine the pain those passengers felt in their final moments as their bodies splashed into those frigid waters.
One of the final displays we passed was of the only surviving Bible of the sinking of the Titanic. It was handed over by a male passenger to his sister in law to be passed onto his wife at home. Later it was donated to the museum. It sits on display, open to the passage of scripture it fell open to when workers put it on display:
“16And when even was now come, his disciples went down unto the sea, 17And entered into a ship, and went over the sea toward Capernaum. And it was now dark, and Jesus was not come to them. 18And the sea arose by reason of a great wind that blew. 19So when they had rowed about five and twenty or thirty furlongs, they see Jesus walking on the sea, and drawing nigh unto the ship: and they were afraid. 20But he saith unto them, It is I; be not afraid. 21Then they willingly received him into the ship: and immediately the ship was at the land whither they went. 22The day following, when the people which stood on the other side of the sea saw that there was none other boat there, save that one whereinto his disciples were entered “
Before we exited the museum into the gift shop, we walked through exhibits that showed the recovery of the Titanic. We also learned if the person on our boarding passes survived. Grace, Molly, Tyler, Ozzie and my passengers survived, but Toby’s and Rusty’s passengers did not. As I looked around at my family, the reality of the fate of many families that night, hit me. Families were torn apart that night in a heartbreaking tragedy.
This is not a feel good museum but it is an incredible museum. The Titanic Museum is somber and quiet, and lends an atmosphere of thoughtful reflection. I was moved and can honestly say it is one of the most fascinating, beautiful, well done museums we have ever visited.