07 November 2010

another K.C. museum

One of the many steamboats that sank in the Missouri river, the Arabia hit a snag in 1856 and quickly sank in 5 minutes. No human fatalities, though one forgotten mule drowned. All cargo was lost. Even though the water was not deep, the boat soon disappeared from sight as it went further and further down into the deep muck of the river's bottom.

It wasn't found until 1988, in a Kansas farm field. The river had long since changed its course. The boat was now lying 45 feet underground, 1/2 mile from the river's edge. Just excavating it was quite an engineering feat!

Years ago we went to this museum, not too long after opening its doors. So long ago that we decided to go back there last weekend. The exhibit has grown immensely and is still growing. There is a restorer's lab on site, where you can ask questions and observe them restoring artifacts.

A humorous side-note: I had seen the introductory film years ago. But this time, I recognized one of the actors dramatizing the boat's history. Years later, she was director of a history museum that hired me as special project researcher! I knew she had done a bit of reenacting . . . . how funny to see her in action years later!


  1. Loved this story, Vicky... about the river changing its course and now the wreck is buried underground... and the coincidence in you recognizing the reenactor as the museum director.

  2. The museum itself is fascinating, Krista! The guys who went on the treasure hunt to locate the boat had to invent ways to salvage and preserve what they found that are totally different from shipwrecks found in salt water. The boat was actually buried in an underground river, complicating matters --- the water had to be pumped out first.
    When the museum director first interviewed me for a job, I thought she seemed familiar but couldn't figure out why. Funny to review the film she was in years later!


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