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Wichita's Museum of World Treasures features fun, facts



If a weekend routine of summer blockbusters has drained your brain, consider feeding your noodle with a visual feast at the Museum of World Treasures in Wichita, Kan., just two hours north off Interstate 135, at 835 E. First. The Discovery Channel has nothing on this place.

Really, the big to-do list before you die should include seeing at least one shrunken head and a real-life Egyptian princess mummy, don't you agree? World Treasures has all that and more, in three stories of packed historical fun that even the curmudgeonliest know-it-all grandpa would enjoy. At $8.95 for adults and $6.95 for kids 4-12, admission is affordable.

The feel of the historic downtown space is more high-end estate sale than garage sale, where one can imagine a Mayan dealer copped a couple of good cigars in exchange for the ancient Uglydoll-looking thing that kids used to play with way back when.

The museum has far more artifacts than oddities, although it is odd to see how people lived, no matter the culture or century. The uniforms soldiers wore in World War I, for example, makes one realize just how little people were back then (or how big we've gotten since). One can't help but be impressed with the attention to detail the funeral dressers gave to the Egyptian princesses' hair, tied neatly in braids, as if they knew gawkers would be commenting on it thousands of years into the future.

Dinosaurs and the Hall of Ancient Cultures comprise the first floor, including Asian, African, Greek, Middle Eastern and pre-Colombian artifacts. From a huge Buddhist statue to the smallest Greek coins, the first floor alone is a good hour-long intellectual soak.

Should your gray matter already be tapped out by then, forget about the second floor, which is a literary buffet of signed documents and letters from nearly every time period and famous royalty, war strategists and political leaders. Officially, this houses the Hall of Presidents, Hall of Royalty (King Henry I and II) and the Hall of Military (sure to please every military buff with memorabilia from all the major wars " a bit creepy and surreal).

Without 10 hours to read the hefty load of paperwork, one is left with only the pitiful state of manners today. In more formal times, one wrote a thank-you note for sending a thank-you note. Even men's penmanship was eloquent and beautiful.

Although the layout is a bit ramshackle, it aids in the surprise factor for the first-time visitor, who just doesn't know what's waiting right around the corner. Among the other eclectic offerings: "10 real dinosaurs" (a big hit with the kids), the Old West-focused Hall of Frontier Life, the Hall of American Presidents (where one can peruse actual letters and other signed documents and photos of all our leaders, and if you're lucky, an all-too-avid volunteer will tell you who our "secret president" was), the Sports Hall of Fame and a children's activity center.

Visitors must feel a little smarter after leaving the museum, if not on full-throttle brain overload. However, there's always the dinner/movie routine to dumb us back down. "Malena Lott


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