My husband has a top ten list for things he learned on our most recent trip to Branson, Missouri. Number 6 is, “Don’t think you can get out of Branson without taking your wife to the Titanic Museum when you had to take her to the movie three times in the theater.” He was right. Driving by the museum each day was torture until I could finally enter it.Besides the tragic story of the beautiful “unsinkable” ship, my fascination with it and the movie, and my desire to see my children educated in both history and compassion, there was also this: I have now stood where Regis stood.The museum stands alone as a worthy attraction, though. It was breathtaking for me.
The deluge of information can be a bit much for a quick trip. Late evening was a good call as far as lines were concerned – there wasn’t one. But we arrived a bit too late. I hurried through portions of the museum as I was afraid I was keeping the staff too long past closing time.
The information comes at you in various forms as well, which is helpful and overwhelming. The tour is technically self-guided, but there are audio and visual aids along the way plus personal audio aids that can be rented, which hang around your neck and with which you play the various chapters at your own pace. It was difficult to look at and read all I wanted to while listening to the audio while trying to share the experience with my children. None of this took away from the experience – it only made me want to return with a better strategy.
“Prepare for a lot of reading,” the waitress at our restaurant had warned us when we told her where we were going next. She was right, but that far simplifies the Titanic Museum experience. There are also wonderful artifacts, beautiful replicas, and several interactive experiences that make you feel you are truly a passenger on the historical ship. I’ll never forget standing on the balcony outside the bridge, with simulated stars above and water below, feeling the cold night air as it rushed across the water and chilled my arms – and my thoughts.
We had the same experience when we took turns putting our hands in 28-degree water, aghast to imagine our whole bodies lost to it. My 7-year-old enjoyed practicing his Morse code. Our toddler liked the life boat. And my 8-year-old was passionate about the boarding pass of a real live passenger who shared our son’s first name and whose story was displayed throughout the museum. Each postcard he had written to his young wife gave our son a clue, but he would not know until the memorial room, where his passenger’s name is not underlined, that the gentleman had in fact perished in the tragedy. My 7-year-old’s passenger survived, however. He was the ship’s barber. At this point my son plans to change his name one day to that of the passenger whose boarding pass he held. Then he will open a barber shop and call it the Titanic in memoriam. I ceased to wonder at that point whether they were getting as much from the museum as I had hoped.
My husband and I were at odds in the movie room. I was fascinated by the comparisons, the beautiful costumes worn in the film, the fact that Brad Pitt or Tom Cruise were originally wanted for the role of Jack. It also moved me to realize that my own fascination for the tragedy was birthed in James Cameron as well, long before he finally made the film. My husband, though, preferred the true stories of the ship and the artifacts of its original passengers.
The Titanic’s history is so rich with details of heroism, tragedy, and humanity. I find there is a delicate balance between memorializing the story and commercializing it. The Titanic Museum in Branson finds the balance almost perfectly. I can still hear the interview from my audio aid in which a woman remembers a young girl on board saying they should not keep calling it an unsinkable ship, for that was “flying in the face of God.” Nor will I forget the true story of the musicians who played almost until the very end, “Nearer My God to Thee,” as one passenger remembered it in an interview. When you visit the museum and grip the boarding pass of the passenger whose life hung in the balance that fateful night, you will hope that song played for them, because whether by earthly miracle or eternal salvation – you’ll want it to be true.