Every mother knows to lay ground rules before taking kids to a museum, but at the Titanic Museum Attraction in Pigeon Forge, the rule “Don’t Touch,” doesn’t apply.
Mary Kellogg-Joslyn, executive vice president, Operations, Sales and Marketing, said, “Sometimes, I will put a uniform on so I can watch what the guests are saying. I will hear the parents say, especially at the beginning, ‘Oh, don’t touch.’ And I have to always remind them, ‘Actually, this is a very interactive place.’”
Kellogg-Joslyn knows a little bit about entertaining children. She was executive vice president, television, for The Walt Disney Company for 20 years. “I took my entertainment background and made the museum come to life. It is not a passive, quiet place.”
Throughout the museum, there are buttons to push on a variety of exhibits where lights come on and recordings play. “Test your Knowledge” quizzes are located on the walls of different areas, like the Blueprint Room and Shipyard Galley Room. In the Boiler Room, kids can pick up a shovel and pretend to feed coal into the fire, so they experience the strain workers felt on the Titanic.
At the Captain’s Bridge, kids can pretend to steer the boat and look out over the horizon at the stars. When they go out on the reproduction ship deck, the temperature drops, and they can touch a man-made iceberg and feel the cold water. The multi-sensory experience includes hearing the bell and sound of the ship hitting the iceberg.
Kids can also write Morris Code on a computer and practice tying knots (which has helped a few Boy Scouts get their badges).
The museum offers a hands-on history lesson, which is primarily geared for kids ages 8 to 15, but younger kids have not been left out. The Tot Titanic area is a place for young guests to play on their own little ship and interact with an age-appropriate video story about the Titanic.
Not only can kids experience history, but they can also be part of the story. Since July, the museum’s Memorial Room offers a Rose Petal Tribute where guests can place a petal in a glass case. Those special rose petals will be spread over the Titanic site in the Atlantic Ocean on April 15, 2012, 100 years after the ship sank.
Kellogg-Joslyn’s husband, John Joslyn, president and CEO of the museum, was the first to venture to the Titanic on the ocean floor for television in 1987. He said that during his 44-day expedition, they got footage no one had ever seen before. A Gallery room is dedicated to his trip, where the team also recovered the first artifacts. He said even with “law of the seas –finders, keepers – it took five years to get titles to the property. In 1997, he began taking the items on tour.
The couple opened the first Titanic Museum in Branson and plan to announce the opening of a third soon. Many of the items on display in Pigeon Forge are on loan from The Titanic Historical Society. The organization is known as the Titanic Authority. President Ed Kamuda visited Pigeon Forge last week.
Joslyn said he hopes the next generation carries on the history of the Titanic, with an understanding that it was more than just a big ship that sank. “They can walk away with what the ship was all about, honor the people who were on board and know the people’s stories of that time.”
Kellogg-Joslyn agrees. “Most visitors are moms and kids, and the kids are the ones saying, ‘I want to come to the Titanic.’ They haven’t seen the movie but they just know there is something special about this ship, and they want to learn about it,” she said.
Kellogg-Joslyn hopes learning the history of the Titanic will have another legacy. “When you leave and get into the car with mom and dad, learn your own family history. We don’t really spend enough time telling our children where our legacy started within our own families.”
Titanic spokesman Rick Laney says getting advanced tickets is highly recommended because they often sell out. Touring the museum takes about 2 hours. Beat the crowds by coming in the morning. Leave cameras at home because photographs are not allowed inside, but kids can bring part of their allowance because, like all museums, you’ll exit through the gift shop.
Even though kids can touch and explore, moms will need to lay one ground rule that is reinforced throughout the museum: No Running.
Advance reservation tickets are discounted. Online pricing, not including tax: Adult $22.27, Child (5-12) $11.14, Family Pass (2 adults, 4 children) $58.80, Child (0-4) Free. For parties of 15 or more, call 800-381-7670 for special rates. To purchase advance reservation tickets or for more information visit www.titanicpigeonforge.com.
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