The Kansas Museum of History has many exhibits that give information about the history of Kansas. The Main Gallery tells the story of Kansas. The exhibits take visitors through the various periods of Kansas history beginning with the native peoples that once inhabited the region. The exhibits then go on to tell of frontier expeditions, Bleeding Kansas, the Civil War era, settlement towns, railroad construction, the 20th century, the birth of fast food and recent past. Some of the key attractions in the Main Gallery are the 1880’s Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway, a 1914 Longren biplane, Custer’s boots, Henry Brown’s rifle, and White’s Printing Press.
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The State Historical Society was charged with preserving the history of Kansas during their inception in 1875. The Society that runs the museum was named the state trustee for Kansas history in 1905. The end of the civil war gave insight to the Kansas Editors and Publishers Association, who founded the Historical Society, to collect artifacts of the time, and to preserve the history of Kansas' contribution to the war to end slavery.
The Kansas Museum of History was built in 1984, long after the Society was founded, because they had no longer had the space to preserve all of Kansas' artifacts and important items. Now, the Kansas Museum of History is charged with many other tasks and accomplishments. Many of the great employees that work at the non-profit Society at the museum are Curators, Preservationists, Researchers who investigate and publish findings of their work, educators, historians, field service experts, and technical experts.
The 1880’s locomotive is the centerpiece of the exhibits at the Kansas Museum of History. It is the oldest surviving locomotive from the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway. The locomotive displayed in the exhibit was designed to climb the steep terrain of the region. The locomotive has been refurbished twice for static display.
The Main Gallery- Longren’s biplane is the fifth biplane built by Albin K. Longren. Longren was a Leonardville native. The plane was sold to Topeka native Phillip Billard who was killed in France during WWI. Longren continued to make planes until 1926. The biplane has a wingspan of 26 feet and can reach speeds of up to 60 miles per hour. The Main Gallery tells of many different groups of people that make up the history of Kansas. People included in this exhibit include Native American, early settlers, Union soldiers during the Civil War, and freed slaves who made Kansas their home.
Photo Exhibit of WWI Inventions- Many inventions made during WWI were made from necessity and their use endures today. Several of these inventions were made by resident Kansans. A WWI era wristwatch owned by Kansan Lewis W. Arnold is on display in the inventions gallery. The zipper and Kimberly Clarke Kleenex are two other Kansas inventions on display in the gallery.
Discovery Place- Features a hands-on gallery in the Kansas Museum of History where children up to the age of 9 can learn about the history of Kansas through fun, interactive, and imaginative exhibits. Laura’s cabin, the Oregon trail, and a Plains Indian tipi are among the stations children can explore. Children can dress up, ride on a stationary train, and cook in a play kitchen. Discovery Place can be reserved for parties and is free for Kansas Historical Society members.
The Early 20th Century Exhibit- The Kansas Museum of History displays information about culture, society, and achievements in the 20th century. In this exhibit, visitors will see a hammer used by Carry Nation, a windmill that pumped water for a Wabaunsee County farm, the Longren biplane, and a 1930’s Chevrolet automobile.
The Fast-Food Exhibit- Kansas Museum of History details the birth of the modern fast-food industry in Kansas. The exhibit includes a 1950’s diner vignette, an early McDonald’s sign, a Harvey House diner gong, and a Coca Cola vending machine. Kansas saw many of the nation’s first fast-food chain restaurants as they began emerging in the 20th century.
Other exhibits include an impressive catalog of online exhibits which can be accessed online through the Kansas Museum of History’s website. Exhibits include “Beyond Lewis and Clark: The Army Explores the West,” “Forces of Nature,” “From Far Away Russia: Russian-Germans in Kansas,” “Lincoln in Kansas” and “Moments of Glory: Kansas’ Achievements.”
The Kansas Museum of History houses a variety of historical documents and artifacts available as resources to the public. The state archives contain historical documents, government records, and family history. This convenient research facility is open to the public. The research department also contains a museum collection, archaeology collection, and historic preservation section.
The Nature Trail surrounding the Kansas Museum of History provides an outdoor area for learning, exploration, relaxation, and exercise. The 2.5 miles of trails combine nature and history with interpretive signs, activity guides, guided tours, and educational events.
The Kansas Museum of History also contains a museum store with unique gifts that celebrates Kansas’ rich history. The shop is open to visitors during visiting hours and sells and wide selection of gifts and books.
6425 SW 6th Avenue, Topeka, KS 66615, website, Phone: 785-272-8681