Monday, January 27, 2014

Buried Treasure

Buttons and Beads
Over the holidays, His Awesomeness & I had a longer than usual visit to his relatives in Missouri/Kansas. Long enough to do some sightseeing. 

When I read about the Steamboat Arabia museum, I thought, "hey, cool." A bunch of guys decided to locate and dig up a sunken 19th century steamboat. The Steamboat Arabia sank on its way upriver, so it was full of supplies it was taking to General Stores in Missouri. And since the Army Corps of Engineers has been keeping the Missouri River on the same path for a relatively short time, the steamboat was buried under  a field nowhere near where the river is today.

Since the field was a working farm, and they were paying for the excavation with their own money, they had to do the entire excavation in the few months of winter when the field would've been lying fallow anyway.

The guys figured they'd sell what they found and make a huge profit. But the first barrel they dug up was full of pristine fancy china. They decided that they had to honor the historical significance of the find and open a museum. Which they did.

More buttons & beads.
The museum is staffed by the sons and grandsons of the guys who did the digging back in the 80s. They said a couple of times that they'd never sell any of it, and there was no market for that sort of thing anyway. I have to disagree with them there because other museums might want to buy some items, and there are all sorts of collectors who would love to get their hands on some of these things.

Everything is in amazing condition because it was underground with no oxygen or water causing damage of decomposition. They drank a bottle of champagne they dug up, and lived to talk about. It was still fizzy. A local chef ate a pickle from one of the jars they found. It was still crunchy.

They've only prepared about half of their find for display, so there's more to come. And they're planning to dig up another steamboat this year.

Totally worth the trip, even with the difficulties I had trying to get a cup of freaking tea before we went in.

So here, look at pretty pictures. 

Forks & knives


Clay pipe bowls. I loved the different colors. The pipe stems are to the left.


Pots, dishes, candles, writing slates

More pots and knives

An assembled pipe

Clothing, fabric and skeins of yarn. There's some silk that's water impermeable, so they had to wash each side separately. The silk may be the most valuable thing there (in terms of money). The stitching on the clothes had disintegrated, so they had to resew it all.

More buttons, and a shirt


Rubber buttons

Tools n stuff
What's the coolest obscure museum you've ever been to?


  1. This looks like an amazing collection. What a find! My personal favorite little gem is the Brandywine River Museum with a collection of N.C., Andrew and Jamie Wyeth works.

  2. I went there 7 or so years ago & was in AWE!

  3. I don't think I've been to a really obscure museum, but I'd love to go to the Mütter museum in Philly. There is also a mental health history museum I'd like to visit that's somewhere out west


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