For the next edition of Six Pics, I’m diverting away from my standard Greece coverage to focus back on the lovely city I’ve been working in for the last couple months: Wichita, Kansas! Wichita is home to several museums – Cowtown, The Wichita Art Museum, and The Exploration Place to name a few. But my favorite has to be The Museum of World Treasures – an Indiana Jones-like collection of oddities and curios from all corners of the world.
In this Six Pics, I’m sharing six of my favorites ‘treasures’ from a recent visit to the museum.
I’ve come across a few segments of the Berlin Wall in my travels at The Newseum in Washington DC and of course at numerous places throughout Berlin. But I was a little surprised to see a massive slab of this historical piece of concrete in Wichita, Kansas. Sure enough though, the museum was able to procure one graffitied section of the iconic wall that once encircled West Berlin.
The Scalp of Autie Custer
Henry Armstrong “Autie” Custer was an 18 year old beef herder from Monroe, Michigan with a clan of famous uncles – Thomas, Boston, and none other than General George Custer himself. Autie followed in his famous uncles footsteps and joined them in battle at the now-legendary Battle of Little Bighorn, also known as ‘Custer’s Last Stand.’
The battle ended in a crushing defeat for the US forces at the hands of the united Lakota and Cheyenne Indian tribes, and Autie Custer was among the many casualties. His corpse was ritualistically scalped and taken by one of the American Indians. The scalp is remarkably preserved and is now on display in the museum’s Civil War gallery.
Braided Egyptian Mummy Hair
Even though the owner of this hairstyle died thousands of years ago, the intricately braided and twisted hair of an Egyptian mummy are visible at the museum today thanks to the remarkable preservation of the mummification process.
After the Allied forces stormed the beaches of Normandy, they pressed through the French countryside eventually liberating Paris and all of France from Nazi control. While one platoon of American soldiers was bedding down for the night in a convention hall near the town of LeMans, the tech sergeant noticed this Nazi flag hanging in the hall. He promptly removed it, had some platoon members sign it, and sent it home to his parents in Springfield, Illinois. Unfortunately when he arrived home after the war, his parents said the flag never arrived.
The whereabouts of the flag for the 60 years after the war are unknown, but in 2007 the flag turned up as a part of collection being donated to the museum by a local Wichita businessman. The museum researched and contacted the names written on the flag and eventually ended up getting in touch with Cyril Leuelling of Morton, Illinois, the very tech sergeant who pulled the flag down in the first place.
Pitch Fork from The Wizard of Oz
Though the museum features artifacts from seemingly every corner of the world, one item in the collection comes from Kansas – well, Hollywood’s version of Kansas, anyways. The Wizard of Oz is a beloved Kansas tale and features prominently in the state. After all, when Dorothy clicks her heals, squeezes her eyes tight, and repeats ‘there’s no place like home,’ she’s longing to return to Kansas.
Inside the Museum of World Treasures, the pitch fork from The Wizard of Oz is held under a glass display case. This prop was used by the actor who portrayed the Scarecrow. So though this prop is most likely Californian in origin, it’s now a part of Kansas lore.
Shrunken heads have long fascinated curious travelers to South America. The Jivaroan people of the Amazon Basin in Ecuador in Peru are most famous for this grizzly trade, emanating out of the practice of capturing enemies heads for trophy or ritual practice, and later as a result of the tourism. However, do to the popularity and demand of these morbid objects, many fakes were made. The Museum of World Treasures asserts that their shrunken head is the real deal, but I’m not so sure. What do you think?