Fort Wallace Museum - Wallace, Kansas
The Fort Wallace Museum in Wallace, Kansas is pretty impressive for the size and quality of the museum in a town of only 56 people. There are four historic buildings and a fairly modern museum building that continues to grow.
But don't expect to find a fort. The Fort Wallace which the museum is named for was located 2 mile to the northeast and there are no visible remains at that site. The fort was active from 1865 - 1882.
The museum has many of the items which are typical in a community historical museum with clothing, artifacts and displays from the history of the community. A large portion of the exhibit space in the main building is occupied by the Floris and Viola Weiser Collection which is devoted to the 7th, 5th and 10th Cavalries.
Most western Kansas museums have at least a few fossils from the days when Kansas was the home to dinosaurs and other animals, but while touring this museum, I discovered a much larger display of local fossils than usual. I asked the volunteers a couple of questions about them and was delighted to learn that one of the volunteers present was Pete Bussen, a paleontologist & retired rancher who collected many of the fossils on display. He started telling me the stories behind them. I was particularly fascinated with the casting of an Ichthyornis dispar, a toothed seabird from the Late Cretaceous period. The skeleton had been collected by Mr. Bussen and he said that it was the most compete specimen of the species that has ever been found.
The museum gift shop even offers fossils for sale. There were come Cretaceous fish skeletons which were fairly large and reasonably priced. I was tempted to get one, but they weren't that handsome and I don't know what I would do with them. I did purchase a single vertebrae from a Platycarpus (a mosasaur or marine lizard) for just $4 (2011 pricing).
New in 2018! Richard "Dick" Rhea of Sharon Springs has donated the Rhea Antique Pump Organ Collection to the Fort Wallace Museum. It is currently displayed in the Becker Addition, but a new fund has been established build a new facility to more properly display the collection in the future.
Call to confirm open days and hours before traveling to the Fort Wallace Museum. Don't forget that this portion of far western Kansas is on Mountain Time.
The Fort Wallace Museum continues to grow. When we revisited the museum in the fall of 2016, we found a large addition where new exhibits are being set up. The most impressive of those is "Thof's Dragon." The new exhibit displays a cast replica of a 40' plesiosaur which was excavated in 1867 by a detail from Fort Wallace, led by a young surgeon named Dr. Theophilus h. Turner. A documentary about Thof's Dragon is in production.
copyright 2011-2018 by Keith Stokes