Strataca - Kansas Underground Salt Museum
Backstory and Context
Land developer Ben Blanchard discovered salt in Hutchinson in 1887 when he was searching for oil. The discovery was the first significant salt deposit found west of the Mississippi River. The original disovery site is south of the city and open to the public. The mine visited by museum the public is part of the Carey Mine, which is continues to be mined by the Hutchinson Salt Company (one of three companies still operating in the county).
The museum's origins date back to the late 1990s when the Reno County Historical Society began the effort to preserve the city's mining history. The Society collaborated with two local businessesm the Hutchinson Salt Company and Underground Vaults and Storage, which is a stores Hollywood movies and related documents underground. The Society's decision to establish a museum coincided with Underground Vaults and Storage's desire to expand its business. As a result, the timing was good to develop the museum.
Notable additions in the first six years include:
- The first Murder in the Mine interactive dinner theatre was held January 20, 2007.
- Opened to the general public May 1, 2007.
- The first underground scout campout held on December 8, 2007.
- The Visitor Center opened in July 2008.
- The movement of the GE Number 2 electric engine to the site from the Reno County Museum. Old Number 2 served the Hutchinson and Northern Railroad at the Carey Salt Mine from 1923 until 1963.
- KUSM was voted one of the “Eight Wonders of Kansas” in January 2008.
- The Salt Mine Express, underground train ride, opened to the public in March 2011.
- The underground restroom complex serving the Event Center opened in April 2012.
- KUSM celebrated its fifth birthday with a celebration on April 30, 2012.
- Development of the Salt Safari Adventure Hike began in Fall 2012 and was launched in October 2013.