Explore the Arabia Steamboat Museum

1 decade 2 years 6 months ago Friday, March 02 2007 Mar 2, 2007 Friday, March 02, 2007 11:30:39 AM CST March 02, 2007 in News

The boat and all 220 tons of cargo were lost until 1987.

"And it was on a service call that I met this guy that talked about steamboats," Hawley said. "And he looked for steamboats, he looked for flying saucers, he looked for Bigfoot. I mean he was a character. But he inspired me to go out and look steamboats."

After months of careful research, that's exactly what the Hawley's and a few other families did. In November of 1987, they started a massive excavation to uncover the Arabia. It was buried under 45 feet of silt, sand, and mud. The amateur achaeologists finished the dig four months later. What they discovered was beyond their wildest dreams. Almost every item in the 220 tons of cargo was perfectly preserved, just a little dirty. When the Hawleys started out on the endeavor there goal wasn't to create a museum. But that's exactly what they did.

"The collection that we found was so inspiring that we decided it was worth the effort to keep it and not sell it," Hawley said.

So they opened the Arabia Steamboat Museum in Kansas City where everything from ornate doorknobs, china, and jewelry to clothes, shoes, and umbrellas is on display. Even food like tubs of butter, pie fillings, and pickles. All 2,000 items just as they were in 1856.

"These dishes have never been used," Hawley said as he showed off a set of dishes. "When we found them they were in boxes that were filled with straw and sawdust. And we just took them out in sets. The bigger platters to the smaller platters and smaller and smaller. I mean they've never even had food on them. There's no scratches, there's no marks"

The colleciton transports visitors back in time. They even hear some interesting stories of discovery.

"He took this pickle out of a jar and he was looking at it and smelling it and then he ate it and it just tasted like a regular pickle after 132 years," Jackson Clements said as he recounted stories he heard at the museum. But getting the Arabia to look good will take a lot of time: It's expected to take 30 years!

The fee to tour the museum for adults is $12.50 and $4.75 for children.  Click on the links to the right to see more from Josh's interview with David Hawley.

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