Monday, September 24, 2012

Steamboat Arabia Museum

The Arabia, in all its glory

With a few exceptions, like the Airline History Museum (above), we rarely plan our trips in advance. Usually we get to our destination and discover there what we might want to see. Case in point: the Steamboat Arabia Museum, which I read about while glancing through a magazine in our hotel room.

In the 1980s, a family of self-described treasure hunters decided to search for one of the hundreds of steamboats that sunk in the Missouri River in the mid-1800s. After several attempts, they found the Arabia, which had been carrying over 200 tons of supplies when it hit a snag and promptly sank in 1856. One hundred thirty years later, the river had changed course, so the treasure hunters found the Arabia buried 45 feet beneath a cornfield in Kansas. Over the span of four months, they salvaged thousands and thousands of pre-Civil War artifacts that are now on display at the museum. Among the items recovered: 377 doorknobs, 1 million nails, 700 window panes, 1250 hooks-and-eyes, 10 tons of lumber, 1000 pencils, 1000 dining utensils, hundreds of pieces of china, 5000 boots and shoes, 418 clothespins, 3100 candles, 5000 sewing needles, 5000 cigars, and 5 million beads to trade with the indigenous natives. To say the collection is mind-boggling would be a true understatement. I highly recommend visiting the museum if you’re ever in Kansas City.

Hundreds of dishes

Doorknobs, brass fixtures and keys

Sinking fast

While you’re there, be sure to also stroll around the City Market that surrounds the museum site. We went on Saturday morning, during the weekly farmer’s market, and had our pick of breakfast items. As Tim said, their wares put our farmer’s markets to shame.

It wouldn't be vacation without a street sausage


Oleg K. said...

Wow! That steamboat museum looks interesting. I wonder if it's anything like Twain's Life on the Mississippi.

Cyn said...

Yes, it's a fascinating place and an equally fascinating story. I don't usually do this, but I bought one of the books in the museum gift shop: TREASURE IN A CORNFIELD by Greg Hawley, one of the excavators. An interesting (and surprisingly well written) read. Not only does it chronicle the mechanics of the excavation, but it also lists all the artifacts that were recovered (hence my accurate laundry list of things in the blog posting). If I did research on this time period, I would setup camp at the museum and never leave!