When you walk into the Steamboat Arabia Museum, you are visiting sunken treasure. Guests get to see salvaged artifacts from the Arabia, a massive steamboat that was shipwrecked in 1856 in the Missouri River. Lost for 132 years, its discovery in 1988 led to the re-emergence of 200 tons of mystery cargo.
The Arabia transported hundreds of passengers along the Missouri River and carried tons of cargo, federal mail, and goods for general stores. It was not the only ship lost to the mighty Missouri River; there were plenty that fell prey to sunken logs and other hazards, but there is something that makes it stand out from the rest. The ship was buried 45 feet underneath a cornfield and protected from light and oxygen. Thus the cargo was found incredibly well-preserved.
Opened in 1991, the museum invites you to discover thousands of items created for life on the frontier in the mid-1800s. It claims to have the world's largest collection of pre-Civil War artifacts and provides visitors with an authentic look at what people used back then. Here you can look at fine china, carpentry tools, clothing, children’s toys, and even multiple jars of pickles.
Learn the story of the steamboat's sinking and its recovery in the video below:
Take a walk along a 171-foot-long deck, the same length as the Arabia, where you can watch videos on the excavation process. You can even see the original boilers, engine, and anchor!
The museum is open daily, and tours are available every 30 minutes. A stop at the Arabia Steamboat Museum is a unique experience in Kansas City.
Cover image by Kelly is licensed under (CC BY-SA 2.0).