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Titanic Museum in Branson memorializes 5 lost on Titan

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The Titanic Museum Attraction in Branson likes to change things up from one year to the next. There’s not nearly enough room to put every artifact on display – not even with two museum attractions, the other located in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.

Mary Kellogg-Joslyn, co-founder and co-owner of Titanic Museum Attractions through Cedar Bay Entertainment LLC, said numerous artifacts are carefully preserved and stored in archival conditions in secure warehouses.

“We just have so much,” she said. “We set out a plan four years ahead, and we know exactly what’s coming in, where it’s going and how we’re going to be promoting it. We’re working on 2025 and 2026 right now.”

It would have been impossible to plan for the event that suddenly cast a bright spotlight on the Titanic this year. The Titan submersible imploded on June 18 on its way to visit the underwater wreckage of the famous ocean liner, and five people died in the incident. The status of the submersible was unknown, however, during an 80-hour search, and worldwide attention focused on the North Atlantic to learn the fate of the travelers.

Kellogg-Joslyn said the phone calls from members of the media started immediately.

“When this situation happened with the Titan, we received press calls from all over the world,” she said. “When it happened, my comment was that at this time, we have no comment; we need to say our prayers for the family members.”

Once it was determined that the people on board had died, Kellogg-Joslyn promised all the media she would talk to them after a suitable period of waiting had passed.

In some ways, it was like April 1912 all over again.

“The ship was lost, but those people set out at sea for three days on their way back to New York City,” Kellogg-Joslyn said of the Titanic survivors. “Sitting on the sidelines were all the people waiting and wondering – did my loved one survive?”

Amid the exhibits painstakingly planned months in advance, a memorial was placed to Titan on June 23. It was a wreath of fresh white roses and chrysanthemums, interspersed with eucalyptus and foxtail. Beside it, a plaque states, “Titanic Museum pays tribute to the Ocean Gate Titanic Expedition Team,” just above a photo of the Titan submersible.

The Titan’s debris field had been located the day before, putting an end to speculation.

Kellogg-Joslyn refers to the staff of the Titanic attraction as its crew – a cohesive unit, whether one is a docent, a custodian or the general manager.

“This crew is very dedicated to the Titanic – 40% of them have been with me 17 years in Branson, and they’re very committed to telling the ship’s stories,” she said. “We paid tribute to Ocean Gate and their families at 8:30 in the morning with all of the crew attending.”

Titanic interest
As the story of the Titan unfolded, social media was awash in questions about why people would want to take such risks to visit the remains of the ship.

The Titanic Museum Attraction crew didn’t have to wonder. Kellogg-Joslyn said interest in the 1912 tragedy is strong, even among its youngest guests.

“We have kids come and they know about the Titanic, and they’re 4, 5, 6 years old,” she said. “Where do they get all this knowledge?”

When asked if visitation was up following the Titan headlines, Kellogg-Joslyn said the busy season is here, and the ship is sold out most days.

“That starts this week and will go through Aug. 15, if it matches last year,” she said.

She declined to disclose revenue figures for the private attraction, but said the Branson and Pigeon Forge ships combined get 1 million visitors per year.

Her typical Branson visitor is a woman, 25-54, with children, she said.

Lynn Berry, director of communications for the Branson/Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce and Convention & Visitors Bureau, said it is the norm for attractions to keep a tight lid on numbers, but interest in the Titanic Museum is high.

“Even after more than 100 years, the Titanic still fascinates people,” she said. “Its exhibits are not static. It is a living history museum, brought to life by the crew that is stationed throughout to help visitors make the journey themselves.”

A heart for history
Kellogg-Joslyn founded the museum in 2006 with her husband, John Joslyn, who once took a submersible himself to visit the wreck of the titanic.

She recalled that in 1985, the Titanic wreckage had just been found and filmed by explorer Robert Ballard. Joslyn was reading the newspaper in the kitchen when he looked up and said, “I’m going to the Titanic.”

The husband and wife were both television producers, and Joslyn was between projects. He raised $6 million in private funds and assembled a team of experts. Together, they spent 44 days at sea, and the team took 32 dives, during which they delicately recovered artifacts to be cleaned and preserved. This was the second expedition after Ballard’s to reach the shipwreck, and Joslyn’s 1987 television movie – “Return to the Titanic: Live!” – drew 22 million households in the United States, according to IMDb.

The couple decided to build a permanent museum in Branson, and they chose to replicate the passenger liner. Kellogg-Joslyn went to work writing the boarding passes that each visitor to the attraction receives upon entering. Visitors are given a pass with the name of a real passenger on the ship, and at the end of their visit, they find out the fate of that person.

Kellogg-Joslyn said the crew is of primary importance.

“If you have a happy crew, you’re going to have happy guests,” she said.

All new employees go through Titanic College, a training program where they learn Titanic history along with the driving philosophy of the company: to pay respect to the 2,208 passengers who were aboard the ship. That includes the survivors and the 1,514 recorded as lost. Among the exhibits is a survivors’ wall, telling the story of every passenger that lived.

This year’s marquee exhibit honors the children of the Titanic. There were 135 children on board the liner, with ages ranging from 9 weeks to 15 years. The children are symbolized by Edwardian-era clothes and shoes that are displayed.

On temporary exhibit in the collection is pair of shoes that were worn by a child on the ship – Louise Kink, a 4-year-old at the time of the disaster. Kink survived the sinking of the Titanic, and her daughter, Joan Randall, was invited to the opening of the special exhibit to view them and to be the guest of honor at a dinner.

“She was a little overwhelmed,” Kellogg-Joslyn said.

In conjunction with the exhibit, the attraction offered the Titanic Shoes for Kids campaign, providing approximately 1,000 pairs of brand-new shoes to children throughout Branson and the surrounding communities.

“Branson is very important to us,” Kellogg-Joslyn said, noting plans are in the works now to celebrate the museum’s 20th anniversary in 2026.

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