Sometimes the only way to find out surprising facts about yourself, is through trial and error.
For instance, am I the type of history nerd that would pay good money to see the largest collection of Titanic life jackets ever assembled?
Why yes. Yes, I am.
To be clear, the collection is of life jackets from the legendary doomed ship that sank in the North Atlantic nearly 110 years ago. It is not a collection of life jackets of unusual size.
The life jackets are just one of many diverting and interesting displays at one of the more improbably successful attractions in the history of tourism: The Titanic Museum Attraction in Pigeon Forge.
You can spend many an hour contemplating why a giant replica museum of HMS Titanic exists in the Smoky Mountains of Pigeon Forge – or in Branson, Missouri for that matter. But ultimately that question is irrelevant for the simple fact that Titanic exists in Pigeon Forge and the whys and wherefores cease to exist once you climb aboard, so to speak.
The experience is inextricably linked to the blockbuster movie, though not affiliated in the least. It’s hard to imagine – that even with Titanic’s historic legacy – the museum would exist without the movie. As such, the grand staircase – which was such a central part of the movie – is also the central part of the museum, serving as perfect replica and excellent spot for pictures.
But to limit the appreciation of the museum to those who wish for a “King-of-the-World” moment, is to dismiss the history nerd that exists in so many of us. The displays, some of which are rotating, are diverting and informative. The rooms, exact replicas of Titanic’s quarters, are akin to touring Versailles, Napoleon III’s quarters in the Louvre or the tours at Biltmore.
My personal favorites are any of the displays – including the life jackets – with authentic Titanic items – of which there are many. There’s a power of being so near to those things that carry you across time and distance, so that you don’t feel exactly that you are in a strangely located tourist attraction, rather a legitimate museum with a legitimate connection to our collective past.
The employees in period costume are excellent in adding to the experience of putting you aboard history’s best known ship.
There is a delicacy that goes along with building a tourist attraction on the back of a great tragedy, even one that happened so long ago and Titanic, somehow, walks that line. I think a lot of that credit goes to a fairly obvious gambit. When purchasing a ticket, the visitor is given the name of a real-life passenger – Molly Brown, for example – at the end, you find out whether your passenger lived or died.
It’s a very effective way of reminding you that there were real people who sank along with Titanic, who desperately clung to that collection of life vests, mostly hoping in vain to survive the icy cold night.
Tickets to the Titanic Museum are $27 for adults and $14 for children ages 5-12. Children 4 and under are free. The museum typically offers a variety of package deals with other area attractions on its website.
Location: 2134 Parkway, Pigeon Forge, TN 37863
Hours: Varies by season