In 1919, discouraged that artifacts of Wichita and Sedgwick County were disappearing, the Sedgwick County Pioneer Society began collecting and displaying historical items in the Sedgwick County Courthouse. Nearly a century later, what began as a modest collection of early memorabilia has expanded to nearly 70,000 Sedgwick County and Wichita-related artifacts, which together trace the history of the region from 1865 to the present. Now housed in Wichita’s original, renovated City Hall, the collection’s photographs, clothing, decorative arts, and household items enrich award-winning exhibits that tell tale of the area’s Buffalo-hunting days, Great Depression–era dust storms, and aircraft industry.
The museum is also home to three re-created environments from the region’s past. The garage re-creation holds a 1916 Jones Six automobile, the only such Wichita-built vehicle on public exhibit, and the drug store reproduces the feel of the popular early 20th-century neighborhood gathering place. Over in the Wichita Cottage, seven rooms of a Victorian-style 19th-century home house authentic period items such as a wooden icebox, a gas-and-electric ceiling light fixture, and a phone powered by animosity toward Rutherford B. Hayes.
At the Museum of World Treasures, a team of curators and historians gather artifacts from around the world to nourish the knowledge-hungry brains of families and students. Since opening in 2001, the diverse collection has grown to encompass three floors of the museum’s renovated warehouse location. Skeletons of dinosaurs loom over visitors in the fossil gallery, and an authentic Civil War cannon stands vigilant among the museum’s military exhibits, which span from the Revolutionary War to the Vietnam War. A plethora of interactive and historical displays also allow visitors to witness original footage from the discovery of the Titanic and feel humbled in the presence of signatures from every American president, including those not yet born.
The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday–Saturday and from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. Museum members can capitalize on myriad benefits, including discounts on educational programs and invitations to special events.
The animal-loving owners of Tanganyika Wildlife Park know that in order to save endangered animals, humans must feel a strong connection to them. It is the park’s mission to foster this connection by putting visitors in close contact with its rare animals. Visitors can gaze at cheetahs and red pandas and feed reticulated giraffes and African spur-thighed tortoises, which are best known for their role in slow-motion Westerns. The park also safeguards endangered animals from extinction by breeding species such as clouded leopards and amur leopards.
Built within the 1935 art-deco-styled Wichita Municipal Airport, the Kansas Aviation Museum houses an eclectic array of historic aircraft and artifacts. The museum boasts around 40 historically significant aircraft, including the Beech Starship, Boeing B-52 Stratofortress, and the KC-135E, the first plane to break the smell barrier. Landlubbers with a passion for planes can study their evolution, from the earliest aircraft engines all the way to the latest jet turbines; inspect an Allison J-35 off a 1948 Republic F-84C Thunderjet or marvel at the museum's oldest engine, a pre-WWI four-cylinder Kemp.
Now in its 75th-anniversary year, the Wichita Art Museum hosts an eye-feast of traveling exhibitions, in addition to nearly 7,000 pieces in its permanent collections. The gorgeous, multihued Persian Seaform Installation by Dale Chihuly headlines the museum's F. Price Cossman glass collection, and major works by Edward Hopper, Mary Cassatt, and Winslow Homer adorn the halls of the esteemed Roland P. Murdock collection. In the recently introduced exhibit In Plane View, Smithsonian photographer Carolyn Russo examines the visual dimensions and abstract beauty of airplanes while refusing to airbrush any cabin's unflattering anterior-engine love handles.
The approximately 247-acre wilderness zoo houses more than 2,500 animals from nearly 400 different species, including gorillas, penguins, bears, tigers, and elephants. Stop by the orangutan and chimp habitat, or walk down a seashell-strewn path to the penguin cove, which includes a 52-foot-long underwater viewing area for watching Humboldt penguins glide gracefully through the water in search of sealed Tootsie Rolls. Sedgwick County Zoo's continually evolving exhibits showcase cuddlesome creatures from diverse regions including Asia, Africa, and South America.