Mary Kellogg spent much of the past decade researching the lives of those who sailed on RMS Titanic's maiden voyage.

"We're constantly spending time to identify ways in which we can pay tribute to the various passengers and crew who were on board," Kellogg said. "Over two years ago, we determined that no one had actually made an entire gallery to honor the musicians on board. Most everybody knows there were musicians. They have been portrayed in all the (Titanic) movies. However, no one had taken the time to learn about each of these individuals, what instruments they played and where they were from and their life stories."

No one until Kellogg and her team at Titanic Museum Attraction in Branson.

Through 2014, the featured gallery at the ship-shaped museum is dedicated to telling the stories of the eight musicians who called Titanic home for a few days before the leviathan sank in April 1912.

Since opening the museum in 2006, Kellogg's attraction has featured exhibits honoring the 133 children who sailed on Titanic, the Irish laborers who built her, the pets that crossed the pond in her and Margaret (Molly) Tobin Brown, whose "unsinkable" spirit was made famous following her rescue at sea.

Musical artifacts

Beyond the stories, Titanic is home to an impressive collection of artifacts, which help tell Titanic's tale. The musicians' gallery is no different.

"There was only one band member that was married," Kellogg said. "Three of the musicians had never even been to sea before, and two of the musicians were planning on getting married when they returned."

This seemingly simple information, she said, took two years to collect. Other information and images of the subjects was even more difficult to find.

"It's hard to believe that in today's world it's hard to find pictures from 1912," she said. "But it is hard to find them. We usually spend about two years researching elements for our gallery."

The prize artifact featured in the musicians gallery is a letter from Wallace Hartley, Titanic's bandleader.

"That letter was mailed on April 10 from the ship," said Kellogg. "It's on Titanic stationary. He mailed it to his parents before Titanic departed on its last leg going out to sea. The original letter is on display and is valued at $185,000 today."

While the Hartley letter sheds light on the musician's life, it also reminds museum guests of the fading art of letter-writing and the turns of phrase and style of the past century.

"It may seem like a simple letter," Kellogg said. "I think about today and what we are going to miss because of emails and Twitter and social media. How do future generations tell the story of their lives? We don't write letters like we did during that period."

The value of Hartley's last letter home is impressive, but it pales in comparison to the value of one of Titanic's previous musical artifacts.

"Last year, Titanic was the only place in the United States where the actual violin Wallace Hartley played was on display," she said. "It sold at auction for $1.7 million."


Working years ahead to keep Titanic exhibits fresh and appealing to guests, Kellogg and John Joslyn, her husband and museum co-owner, are always looking for new artifacts to display. The artifacts, Kellogg said, don't tell the whole story. That takes the special talents of Titanic's most valuable assets.

"It's through our crew members," Kellogg said. "They are educated and trained. We are very fortunate that Megan (Williams) is an accomplished pianist."

Williams dons period clothes and assumes the character of Miss Marjorie Anne Newell, a 23-year-old passenger aboard Titanic on its faithful voyage. She shares Newell's story with guests and plays the Steinway piano that sits at the center of the musicians' gallery.

Newell, an accomplished musician herself, survived the events of April 15, 1912, and went on to live a long life. She became a piano and violin instructor, and lived to be 97.

"We identified a passenger story that (Williams) could share," Kellogg said. "She tells that story through the eyes of the musicians."

Several museums around the country and world have amassed collections of Titanic artifacts retrieved from the floor of the Atlantic Ocean, but Kellogg said the mission of her attraction in Branson -- and its sister museum in Pigeon Forge, Tenn. -- is different.

"We've had over 300 descendants come in. They all say the same thing: 'Thanks you for continuing to tell the stories of our families,'" she said. "I always respond that our mission at Titanic Museum Attraction is to pay respect to those who came before us, and to continue to tell their stories every day."