Visiting the Titanic Museum in Branson, Missouri

The Titanic Museum in Branson, Missouri is a place of deep reflection and emotion. As I stood surrounded by photographs of the musicians who bravely played on as the Titanic sank deeper and deeper toward her icy fate, I felt myself fighting back tears. The live pianist had paused briefly — leaving space for me and others in the room to reflect on the moment’s significance. It’s been more than 100 years since the Titanic sunk while en route from Southampton, England, to New York City. Still, I felt so aware of the emotions that the musicians — and the passengers they hoped to calm with their melodies — must have been feeling in those final hours that I was almost certain they were in the room with me.

This was not at all how I thought I’d feel when I paid a visit to the Titanic Museum during a family trip to Branson, Missouri. Like many of us, I’ve been familiar with the history of the Titanic since elementary school. Although I found the story both tragic and fascinating, I expected to spend an hour or so looking at interesting artifacts and photos before making a requisite visit to the gift shop and moving on to our next activity. But my visit ended up being much more poignant than what I had read about in history books or seen in movies.

There are plenty of artifacts — more than 400 valued at $4.5 million, to be exact — at the Titanic Museum, given by descendants and recovered from expeditions to the wreckage. However, the attraction focuses first and foremost on the ship’s survivors and fatalities, making it all the more impactful.

The Titanic Museum is located in Branson on 76 Country Boulevard, also known as the Branson Strip. This is where many of the town’s attractions are. The area includes Branson’s well-known theater district and popular tourist spots like the Aquarium at the Boardwalk, the Branson Ferris Wheel, and the World’s Largest Toy Museum. It’s hard to miss, as the exterior of the museum is a replica of the Titanic — iceberg, water, and all. There is a second Titanic Museum in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, with similar displays and interactive exhibits.

General-admission timed-entry tickets to the Titanic Museum cost $32 for adults and $15 for children ages 5 to 12 when purchased online in advance through the museum’s website. Children ages 4 and under are free. Depending on the size of your party, you may be able to save with the Titanic Museum’s Branson Family One-Day Pass. The pass is valid for two adults and up to four children; it costs $115 when purchased online. Tickets purchased in person cost slightly more and may be unavailable if all time slots are filled. If you are planning to visit other attractions in the area, there are a variety of combination tickets available that you can use to visit Branson’s other shows and activities, including Silver Dollar City and Dolly Parton Stampede.

When we entered the museum, we were handed a “boarding pass” with the name and description of a real-life Titanic passenger printed on it. We were instructed to keep the card with us throughout our journey, and we would find out their fate. It was interactive and personal elements like this that brought the experience to life.

Each visitor received a headset to follow along with the museum’s audio tour, and there are also youth audio tour stations throughout the exhibits. Many of these were accompanied by interactive activities and quizzes that ended up being some of the highlights of the day for my kids.

Most rooms featured exhibits designed to resemble different parts of the ship. We started by learning about the Titanic’s construction, crew, and the planned path of her maiden voyage. Many of the photos come from Francis Browne, a photographer and priest who was only on board for a portion of the Titanic’s journey. Seeing these photos of the Titanic that depicted the voyage before tragedy struck helped set the stage for the rest of our tour.

From there, we were taken through the kitchen and boiler room. We saw menus, dishes, cookware, photos, and other kitchen and dining room artifacts that showed the difference between the dining experiences of first-class and third-class passengers. In the boiler room, we learned how hard the staff worked to keep the fires stoked, working and sleeping in shifts with only a few hours to rest before it was time to get back to work. To demonstrate just how difficult their job was, the museum had a surprisingly heavy shovel you could pick up and pretend to throw some coal into the fire.

The museum also had replicas of the different types of cabins on board the Titanic. There was such a stark contrast in the size and decor between the first- and third-class cabins, but it was the difference in cost and onboard experiences that really shocked me. Third-class passengers often spent a year’s salary just to squeeze into a tiny cabin with their entire family or total strangers if they were traveling alone. First-class passengers had spacious, well-furnished accommodations that, while obviously expensive, often did not carry the same apples-to-apples financial burden for them. Between the third- and first-class cabin exhibits was an exact replica of the Titanic’s Grand Staircase. This would have separated the ship’s third- and first-class passengers; even in the museum, the atmosphere shifted as we moved to what would have been the ship’s upper decks. This was also when we further delved into the events surrounding the sinking of the Titanic.

My kids had fun sticking their hands in a tank of icy cold 28-degree water and fighting to stay upright on decks sloped to mimic different phases of the ship as it sank. But for me, it was just another example of how the museum effectively made the experience feel real and relevant. One of the final rooms in the museum displays images from the discovery of the Titanic’s wreckage and the many expeditions that have been made since. The museum’s founder, John Joslyn, made many of those voyages himself. Joslyn, who also founded the Titanic Museum in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, is not shy about his self-proclaimed obsession with the Titanic. He has completed 32 dives to the ship’s remains in a submersible, bringing back photographs and artifacts from the wreckage.

Before “disembarking,” we learned the fate of the passenger we had been assigned upon arrival. Of the Titanic’s 2,208 passengers, only 705 survived. Most of those were women and children. My assigned passenger was among them. Genevieve Cassebeer was one of the lucky ones, and because of her and other survivors, the rest of us can glimpse into the Titanic’s ill-fated maiden — and only — voyage.

From the outside, it’s easy to assume the Titanic Museum is all show and no substance in a town full of attractions geared toward tourists. But it turned out to be quite the opposite experience for me. The museum showed as much reverence toward the Titanic’s accomplishments as its tragedy. Each exhibit was designed so that everyone could experience and enjoy them and create lasting memories, regardless of age or previous familiarity with the Titanic.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *