It’s the anniversary of the Titanic‘s collision with an iceberg; she struck it near midnight and went down in the wee hours of the following morning. Coincidentally, the newest addition to our roster of historical to-dos here in East Tennessee is a “Titanic museum attraction,” which opened about a week ago in Pigeon Forge.
Pigeon Forge, TN is situated right in the Smokies, and is therefore quite thoroughly landlocked. In fact, Pigeon Forge is probably the second-to-last place in the world where one would expect to find a “Titanic museum attraction.” The very last would be Branson, MO, but they’ve already got one.
Those of us who are East Tennessee natives view Pigeon Forge the same way I’d imagine longtime Florida residents view Orlando. (Incidentally, Orlando has a Titanic attraction, too, which is apparently unaffiliated with the Tennessee/Missouri outfit. Titanic attractions are seemingly as plentiful as Waffle Houses; I might look into setting up a franchise here in my hometown.)
If you took an idyllic setting on the edge of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and then filled it with mini-golf courses, outlet malls, go-cart tracks, country music theaters, bungee jump platforms, helicopter tours, dinosaur boat rides, Chinese acrobat shows, and souvenir shops; slapped a theme park named for Dolly Parton right smack in the middle; and then added the worst bumper-to-bumper traffic to be found outside of Los Angeles, then Pigeon Forge would be the result.
Don’t get me wrong; you can have a very good time in Pigeon Forge. I myself have spent many enjoyable hours there, although let me state right here and now that the Jurassic Jungle Boat Ride is a complete and utter rip-off. My point is that putting a museum in the middle of all that kitsch is sort of like hanging an original Rembrandt in a Las Vegas casino.
It would be like building a museum in…well, Branson or Orlando.
But it’s now been done, and not only that, but the master of ceremonies at the grand opening was—I kid you not—Regis Philbin. This is the very man one would want to open a major museum, a man who positively oozes historical sensibility and scholarly gravitas, much like David McCullough or Daniel Boorstin.
One thing the Branson Titanic has going for it that our Volunteer State version lacks is a pair of live spaniels. The website promises that they will ”star in our upcoming 2010 salute to the Dogs of Titanic, the world’s first tribute to the 10 dogs known to be on board.” I’m surprised that we’ve gone nearly a century without a tribute to the dogs on the Titanic, but you know how it goes with historical commemoration and disfranchised minorities. The spaniels have their own webcam, in fact, although they weren’t hanging around in their doggy suite when I checked in.
It seems to me that the folks at the helm of this ship have left “museum” in their wake and are heading toward “attraction” at full steam.