2012 Road Trip Photos #32: Underground Salt Museum, Part 2 of 3: To Preserve Man

In addition to their service as a simple salt mine, the subterranean chambers of the Underground Salt Museum provide a stable temperature, humidity, and overall salt-heavy atmosphere ideal for slowing the biodegradation process and preventing everyday objects from crumbling into dust. To prove the point, one of their museum exhibits is a stand filled with vintage garbage, looking just as freshly disgusting as it did when Don Draper’s contemporaries first threw it all away decades ago.

trash preservation, Underground Salt Museum

In a more useful vein, some of this vast square mileage is held and operated by Underground Vaults & Storage, a company that specializes in long-term preservation of precious artifacts for its many corporate clients. The Museum is one of several such locations nationwide where you can pay a fee and let them hold onto your objects and collections that might otherwise turn to dust under ordinary surface-level conditions.

Undergrounds Vaults and Storage, Hutchinson, Kansas

Said clients include major film studios, who send tons of film reels here for safekeeping, even if the movies they contain weren’t necessarily the best Hollywood has ever offered. I imagine the general storage design is based on Martin Scorsese’s pantry.

film preservation, Underground Vaults and Storage, Hutchinson, Kansas

Sure, some papers and documents can be scanned, digitized, and/or otherwise turned into permanent electronic keepsakes. These massive old computers stand as a reminder of the folly of sole reliance on computer storage. The three or four BASIC equations and handful of NetHack saved games that were kept on these dinosaurs are now trapped forever. Don’t let this happen to the several gigs’ worth of baby photos you keep in your iPhone. Have them all printed and mailed to UVS today!

ancient computers, Underground Salt Museum, Hutchinson, Kansas

This fascinating tour requires all participants to wear safety helmets that don’t fit and carry emergency breathers that have thankfully never been necessary since the Museum was instituted. Rest assured this photo will not be printed and forwarded to UVS for the purpose of educating future generations.

hardhats, Underground Salt Museum, Hutchinson, Kansas

The end of the tour is a series of numerous displays showcasing a variety of exotic bric-a-brac that someone thought deserved to live forever, such as this 1865 newspaper proclaiming the assassination of some famous politician. You might think that all old newspapers ought to be recycled for environmental benefit once their news is well behind us or just obsolete, but someone thinks you’re wrong.

Lincoln newspaper, Underground Salt Museum, Hutchinson, Kansas

Some of us art aficionados were delighted to find that animation cels ranked highly enough to qualify for membership.

animation cels, Underground Salt Museum, Hutchinson, Kansas

Also worth saving until the end of the world: fake candy bars and movie-remake posters.

movie props, Underground Salt Museum, Hutchinson, Kansas

When it comes to their collection of Hollywood souvenirs, this is merely the tip of the iceberg.

To be continued!

[New readers and completists: be sure to check out the 2012 Road Trip checklist for the ultimate reading guide, still in progress. Thanks for reading!]

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