ABOUT THE MUSEUM
A popular Kansas City attraction for more than 25 years
The Arabia Steamboat Museum is a unique Kansas City attraction: a time capsule of life on the American frontier in the mid-19th century. Visitors have a one-of-a-kind opportunity to experience everyday objects that made life possible for pioneers in the 1800s.
Voted “Favorite Kansas City Hidden Gem” by Visit KC, the museum is one of Kansas City’s most popular attractions. It is the largest single collection of pre-Civil War artifacts in the world, featured by National Geographic Traveler, Smithsonian Magazine, PBS, Antiques Roadshow, Good Morning America, Southern Living, CNN, the History Channel and many other news and entertainment organizations.
The Steamboat Arabia was one of many casualties of the perilous Missouri River—the longest river in the United States that 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 midwestern 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, thus, was remarkably well preserved.
In the winter of 1988, five men and their families banded together to begin the adventure of a lifetime … recovering the Steamboat Arabia's long-lost treasure. 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 and carpentry tools to children’s toys and the world’s oldest pickles—the Arabia’s artifacts captivate visitors of all ages. The museum accommodates all types of visitors, including walk-ins, families, RV groups and more. It has become a favorite destination for Kansas City field trips year after year.
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 and interactive displays are added on an ongoing basis. 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.