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Grand Central's cultural sites

Remarkable lives endure in these cultural sites.


Rachel Carter
Published March 05, 2014

Museum of World Treasures

Wichita, Kansas

It’s not a museum of natural history or of social history or of science and technology. It’s called the Museum of World Treasures because it features treasures from around the globe and across millennia.

“We’re called an encyclopedic museum because we have a little bit of everything,” said Rachel Stanley, marketing and development manager for the museum.

The museum’s eclectic collection is housed in a 100-year-old former paper factory in downtown Wichita, Kansas. On the first floor of the three-story museum, visitors meet Ivan the Tyrannosaurus rex; there, they also find a piece of the Berlin Wall, a shrunken head and Egyptian mummies.

On the second floor is an 1843 reproduction of the Declaration of Independence near a World War II trench display, as well as a Nazi flag covered in signatures that has an incredible story behind it. On the top floor, visitors can see a Gatling gun and a pitchfork from “The Wizard of Oz.”

The wide array of items goes back to the museum’s founders, John and Lorna Kardatzke, who donated much of their collection of historic artifacts to the museum. Today, the museum represents more than 150 individual collectors, Stanley said.

“That’s why we have so many types of exhibits, because we have so many different collectors with so many different interests,” she said. “It’s really great because people have the opportunity to see so many different types of history. We’re the only place in the entire state of Kansas you can see Egyptian mummies and then artifacts from the Revolutionary War.”


Will Rogers Memorial Museum

Claremore, Oklahoma

Cowboy, movie star, radio personality, entertainer, journalist: It’s difficult to give Will Rogers a title because he did so much in his lifetime.

“The breadth of his entertainment and communications career was wider than anyone else then and even today,” said Steve Gragert, director of the Will Rogers Memorial Museum in Claremore, Oklahoma. “There’s nobody who can claim the height of prominence in so many areas that Will did, so his reach was phenomenal.”

Although Rogers was born on a ranch in what is now Oologah, Oklahoma, which is also open to the public, he claimed Claremore as his hometown. The museum sits on land that Rogers and his wife, Betty, bought early in their marriage and that Betty donated to the state after his death.

Rogers’ success as an entertainer — he was in 71 motion pictures — launched him into other fields. He had the highest-rated radio broadcast on Sunday nights and wrote a newspaper column that reached 40 million readers each week.

Rogers put about 2 million words in print during his lifetime, Gragert said, and the museum has many of his quotes inscribed on the walls.

“He’s known as a cowboy, and he loved being a cowboy; but there’s one vocational title that he valued more than any of the others, and that was journalist,” Gragert said. “He treasured the opportunity to write and reach people through the newspapers.”

Visitors also enjoy Rogers’ collection of saddles from around the world and the statue of Rogers by the famous sculptor Jo Davidson, Grager said. Guests touch the shoes for good luck, so they shine a bright brass, unlike the dark patina on the rest of the statue.

Group rates and guided tours are available. One of the guides, retired elementary school principal Andy Hogan, embodies Rogers’ persona, down to the cowboy outfit and trick roping, as he leads tours, Gragert said.


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