The Arabia Steamboat Museum – A Historic Kansas City Attraction
The Arabia Steamboat Museum is a unique Kansas City attraction: a time capsule of life on the American frontier in the mid-nineteenth century. It is not your typical museum. Visitors have the one-of-a-kind opportunity to experience the everyday objects that made life possible for pioneers in the 1800s. It is the largest single collection of pre-Civil War artifacts in the world.
The Steamboat Arabia was one of many casualties of the perilous Missouri River. The Mighty Missouri, as it was often called, is the longest river in the United States and has claimed nearly 400 other steamboats over its 2,500 mile course. In September 1856, the Arabia was carrying over 200 tons of cargo intended for general stores and homes in 16 mid-western frontier towns. The steamer was still fully loaded when it hit a tree snag and sank just 6 miles west of Kansas City. Due to erosion, the Missouri River changed course over time, and the Arabia was buried underground for over a century – along with all of its precious cargo. Lying 45-feet deep beneath a Kansas cornfield, the Arabia’s payload was protected from light and oxygen and was thus remarkably well preserved.
Using a metal detector and old maps to guide the search, an amateur archaeologist began the search for the lost steamer. Located a half-mile from the present river’s course, 5 men and their families would begin the adventure of a lifetime … recovering the Steamboat Arabia.
What they found will astound you. In 1991 the Arabia’s cargo was transformed into the Arabia Steamboat Museum, a top Kansas City attraction and favorite local destination in the historic City Market. From fine China to carpentry tools to children’s toys to the world’s oldest pickles—the Arabia’s artifacts captivate visitors of all ages.
The Arabia Steamboat Museum has been a popular Kansas City attraction for over 20 years. The collection is a work in progress as preservationists continue to clean 60 more tons of artifacts in a preservation lab that’s available for visitors to watch. Come and see what they are working on today. More artifacts are added to the displays on an ongoing basis, and the entire museum was cleaned and renovated in early 2013. Whether it’s your first visit to this favorite Kansas City attraction or you come in every year, the Treasures of the Steamboat Arabia will connect you to American history in a new and exciting way.