In the years since her sinking, RMS Titanic continues to surprise us with the discovery of forgotten or unknown treasures. One such treasure is the photo album of Father Francis Browne, a Jesuit priest and renowned photographer from Ireland.
The album, containing some of the only known photos taken aboard Titanic at sea, is coming to the United States in April 2012, helping the great ship and her passengers symbolically complete a voyage begun long ago. Browne’s original photo album will be displayed exclusively at the Titanic Museum Attractions in Branson, Missouri, and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, as part of the Titanic Centennial Commemoration.
The photos will be on display in Missouri at the Titanic Museum Attraction in Branson April 6-10, 2012. The historic images will then travel to the Great Smoky Mountains for display at the Titanic Museum Attraction's Pigeon Forge location on April 12-21, 2012. During their visit, the photos will essentially be on display almost 100 years to the day they were originally taken.
“The media christened the discovery of Father Browne’s photos in 1986 as the ‘photographic equivalent to the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls,’” said John Joslyn, owner of the Titanic Museum Attractions and leader of the first private expedition to the explore the great ship’s resting place. “That may seem like hyperbole, but among the vast collection of photos he took in his lifetime, perhaps one single photo album captured the world’s imagination like no other: a record of his days as a passenger on the maiden voyage of Titanic before he disembarked in Ireland.”
Considered historically priceless, the Titanic album is the only album in Father Browne’s collection to include handwritten captions for each of the 159 photos documented on 63 pages. The original album, insured at more than $1 million, has never left Ireland since Father Browne’s death in 1960. Its display at the Titanic Museum Attractions in April 2012 is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Titanic enthusiasts and photography historians to see the original images on exhibit, including the only known photo of the ship’s wireless room, the last photo ever taken of the ship’s captain, and the ship’s anchor being raised from the water for the final time.
“We expect great interest in seeing these photos,” said Joslyn. “They represent a unique first-person account of life aboard Titanic for the first days of its voyage. No other survivor could provide such a visual memory of the ship, her crew and passengers.”
The photos were taken by Browne as he traveled aboard Titanic from Southampton, England, to Cherbourg, France, to Queenstown, Ireland. When Father Browne died in 1960, his Titanic photos and more than 40,000 other notable images from his work were locked away in a metal trunk and forgotten until a chance discovery in 1986.
Even with the discovery of the collection, it has still taken more than a quarter century for the priceless album to make its way to American shores where it will be briefly on display with other artifacts from the ship and its passengers.
“The photos resurfaced at almost the same time we were first learning the location of Titanic’s actual resting place,” said Joslyn. “It’s as if the ship was ready to give up her secrets at last. We look forward to our museum visitors finally having access to view this last great treasure from the ship’s history.”