The Kansas Museum Is One Of The Most Unusual In The World


CHANUTE, Kansas (KSNW) — Kansas has numerous interesting and unique museums.

Hutchinson houses the Cosmosphere and the Strataca Salt Museum. Greensburg’s Big Well Museum; Hays’ Sternberg Natural History Museum.

The newly opened Amelia Earhart Hangar Museum is in Atchison, while the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum is in Abilene. However, there is one museum you may not be aware of that is one of the most unusual in the world: the Martin and Osa Johnson Safari Museum.

Martin and Osa Johnson were pioneers of filmmaking and wildlife films. In the early twentieth century, the couple was the first to travel to Africa and the South Pacific with film equipment to photograph wildlife and native cultures.

Martin Johnson was born in Lincoln, Kansas, in 1884 and grew up in Independence. He went to the South Pacific as a cook and photographer for novelist and adventurer Jack London.

Though he had met his future wife Osa several years before when he photographed her brother, he was reintroduced to her when he gave a talk on his travels with London in Chanute, her birthplace.

They married soon after, and after briefly considering opening a movie theater in Independence, Martin persuaded Osa to go film in the South Pacific. It was the first of the couple’s many tremendously successful films.

The duo is the first to film numerous indigenous cultures and animals in their natural environment. In addition, they authored several books and gave several lectures.

Martin perished in a plane crash in 1937 while heading from Salt Lake City to California on a lecture tour. Following his death, Osa continued their work, becoming a film producer, children’s book author, and women’s fashion designer, as well as publishing a best-selling biography titled “I Married Adventure” with the help of a ghostwriter.

She died of a heart attack in a hotel in New York City in 1953. The couple had no children.

In 1961, Osa’s surviving relatives established a museum to memorialize the couple’s work. The museum has mementos, photographs, native artwork, and things gathered by the couple throughout their lengthy travels. It also includes a 30-seat cinema theater where guests can see their films.

The museum is located at 111 N. Lincoln Ave., Chanute. It is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

For additional information on the Martin and Osa Johnson Safari Museum, please visit their website.

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