In case you didn’t read the previous post, for my birthday I made a list of things I still hadn’t seen in KC and had a tourist day with the boy. However, the Steamboat Arabia needed a post of it’s own, so here you go:
This Steamboat Arabia Museum is something I think I saw as a child but have little to no recollection of the event, yet I kept seeing the museum when we would go to the farmer’s market on the weekends and decided I at least needed to see what this was all about. So I tell the boy that ‘this might be really stupid, but I want to at least know what is in the museum and it’s my birthday and so we are going’.
So we march on up to the info desk to buy the tickets…… and they are $15 per person! For such a tiny and seemingly insignificant museum! I mean the only museum dedicated entirely to WWI in the nation is here in KC, and it’s a pretty big museum, and it only costs $14 per person! But, I have to know what is in this museum so I deem the price worth my curiosity.
We ask for two tickets, and the woman hands us our tickets practically as the request is still leaving my lips and says that the next tour is in thirty minutes. (Immediately my mind balks at this new information. A TOUR?! We don’t even get to walk around by ourselves! I don’t want to wait for thirty minutes, why didn’t you tell me that BEFORE I bought the ticket!) After a pause, she says that there will be maybe sixty children on that tour, however, and that if we want to wait for the tour following that it will be an additional thirty minute wait time. I look at J apologetically, I had no idea it would be so expensive and full of school children. This seems like a very bad idea.
Buuut we’ve already spent the money and I have a whole list of other things for us to do, so we plow forward. After wandering around nearby stores for thirty minutes we join the school children to start the tour. The tour guide was nice and handled the children well and managed to get us all funneled into a small room to play a video…… which was super cheesey. It was informational, but it was also full of weird “recreated scenes” and it didn’t help to reassure me that this tour was worth it. But then one of the guys who discovered the steamboat came out to talk afterward which made things look up, so now I’ll give you some of the story behind this place.
Basically, loads of steamboats went up the Missouri river back in those days and a lot of them crashed because of the shallow river and the amount of “snags” (trees stuck in the bottom but almost reaching the surface) there were. The Steamboat Arabia was a pretty big one for it’s time, and it was taking women, children, and a whole bunch of supplies to the men up the river who were trying to settle towns, build homes, etc. Everyone survived when the Steamboat Arabia went down (except the poor donkey, still tied to the front of the boat (sad face)) but then it disappeared, and the river moved many miles away when a flood occurred a short time later which buried the steamboat under the silt that was left. A rumor was started that there were barrels upon barrels of the finest Kentucky bourbon and soon EVERYONE went looking for the treasure trove of whisky. Finally, someone way back when found it, but the first several things they brought up were just hats and boots and such and they quickly abandoned the effort because, yeah, no whisky, so why keep looking?
But then, in the late 80s/early 90s a group of four men ran into someone looking for the Arabia and decided to look for themselves. They committed themselves fully, looking through historical documents for stories about where it might be or what it might hold, maps from before the river moved and after, until they decided on a spot to start looking. It took them a long time to dig down far enough to find anything, but then they found everything. The guy talking to us after the video said he remembered saying at the time that it would take at least two years to go through all the stuff they found….. and it’s been 20 years and there are still cleaning up stuff they found. In fact there is a room in the museum where you can see them cleaning up the artifacts:
board explaining what they are working on.
artifact cleaning room (the dryer is the tube off to the left that the cow hide mentioned on the white board is in)
close up, same room, explaining the perfume on the wall on the right.
it smelled pretty good!
That is one of the things I liked most about this museum, the way it was set up. The room above was interesting, though they weren’t working at the time we went through, in that it let you into the personal side of how this museum is set up, the stuff they are still going through to add to the museum. Since it’s just normal people putting together their own museum about stuff they found, it’s clear they wanted to make a museum that was accessible to everyone. There was also an exhibit that showed and explained how they control the temperature and light and why they do so:
the actual controls.
We had skipped out on the tour immediately after the video because the tour guides had their hands full with the kids, so I know I missed out on some pretty decent anecdotal stories (one of the guys who helped discover the Arabia apparently opened a jar of pickles that was in the wreckage and tried one, stating that it was just as crisp and flavorful as if they were new — and there were more stories in that vain I think that we missed) but we still really enjoyed wandering through at our own leisure. Which brings me to more reasons why I liked the set up of this museum. They found windows on board, that would have been used to help with building houses on the frontier, and used them in making exhibits!
And then there were the cases exhibiting the shear number of things that they found, which is quite a feat honestly.
oh my god. shoes.
Another thing I enjoyed was how artistically they displayed several of their items, which they obviously realized because they took pictures and hung it as art in some of the blank wall space.
beads and buttons
old bottles, some broken
Here are just a few pictures of things I found interesting. The first is a little Frozen Charlotte doll that they found in a toolbox that they found out is based on an old folk ballad about a girl freezing to death in an open sleigh. Here is the wikipedia site for those interested: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frozen_Charlotte_%28doll%29
as you can see, she is not dressed appropriately for cold weather…
This picture of a box containing a printer is for my mom and her family, because they grew up here:
I took this next picture because it is a Shakespeare book! Behind it you can see clothes hangers and loads of dishes (there were sooo many!!)
After you are through the smaller hallways and rooms of things, there is one giant room that is a replica of the deck of the Steamboat Arabia. Everything in that room is in the place that it would have been on the original boat! The paddlewheel is off to the side, the anchor at the back, the donkey’s remains also at the back (whomp whomp), the boiler/furnace thing, etc. Another example of how they chose to set up the museum to be a really compelling feature.
sorry for blurriness, it was very dark in there to preserve things.
the snag that they hit is even in it’s rightful spot!
(not pictured: the poor donkey)
And thus endeth your tour of my tour. It was surprisingly the best feature of my birthday, I would highly recommend it! (though try not to go with a field trip, unless you want to remember how it felt back in those days, because it did have that aspect to it)