Helping preserve the rich history of Douglas County, Kansas

The Douglas County Historical Society, a non-profit organization established in 1933, preserves the heritage of Douglas County and encourages civic engagement by sharing stories of the people and events that have shaped our communities. Since 1975, the Society has operated the Watkins Museum of History. The Watkins Museum, housed in the 1888 Watkins Land Mortgage and National Bank Building, provides educational resources and activities, programs and public events, and changing exhibits that explore the heritage of Douglas County and connect the past with issues that affect our communities today.

Membership in the Douglas County Historical Society supports the museum and offers inside information and members-only programs. Join Today!

Watkins Museum of History

Museum and Book Shop Hours

Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday:
10 a.m.–4 p.m.
Thursday: 10 a.m.–8 p.m.
Sunday: 1 p.m.–4 p.m. (May–October)
Tuesday–Saturday: 10 a.m.–4 p.m.
Closed Sunday, Monday and Holidays

The Watkins Museum’s public
spaces are fully accessible.
Coming Events
Sundays, July 17, 24
Poke(mon) Around Historic Oak Hill
1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m., Free
Oak Hill Cemetery, 1605 Oak Hill Avenue
Join Watkins Museum guides for an afternoon of Pokemon Go fun while learning about people and events from Lawrence history at the Pokestops in Oak Hill Cemetery.
Wednesday, July 27
Olympics Exhibit Opening Ceremonies
10 a.m.–noon
This daytime event commemorates the opening of our new, interactive exhibit celebrating Douglas County Olympians.
August 14-20
Civil War on the Western Frontier
Historical agencies throughout Douglas County commemorate our area's Civil War history with programs in August and mark the 10th anniversary of Freedom's Frontier National Heritage Area.
Presenting organizations include: Black Jack Battlefield and Nature Park, City of Lawrence Parks and Recreation, Eudora Community Museum, Territorial Capital/Lance Museum in Lecompton, Wakarusa River Valley Heritage Museum at Clinton Lake, and Watkins Museum of History in downtown Lawrence
Read More »
Saturday, August 20
A Day of Programs Honoring Civil War on the Western Frontier
The Watkins remembers the Civil War in Lawrence with a day of programs, exhibits, presentations, music, walking tours, and bus tours. Some programs require tickets/ advance registration. DCHS members receive a discount on ticketed events.
Read More »

Support Watkins Museum

Use the convenient PayPal button below,
to help support the programs provided by the Watkins Museum.

How to Find Us


View Watkins Museum of History
in a larger map


Freedom's Frontier Heritage Area
The Watkins Museum is a partner in the Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area
  • Smell Your Way Back in Time


    A new Family Guide and hands-on activities in the Watkins Bank’s original tellers’ counter help family visitors explore life in early Lawrence.

    New Exhibit Rendering
  • Recently Renovated


    The Watkins Museum’s recently renovated main stair hall

    Recently Rennovated
  • Distinguished Visitors


    The Australian Ambassador to the U.S., Hon. Kim C. Beazley, AC, and a party from the embassy in Washington, D.C. visited the Watkins Museum and toured downtown Lawrence on July 17, 2015.

    New Exhibit Rendering
  • Permanent Exhibit


    A new permanent exhibit, installed on the museum’s second floor opened August 17 to record crowds.

    New Exhibit Rendering
  • Quantrill’s Raid Artifacts


    View an exhibit of artifacts from Quantrill’s Raid on Lawrence.

    Raid Artifacts
  • New Permanent Exhibit Opens


    Another view of the new permanent exhibit exploring Douglas County heritage that opened August 17, 2013.

    New Exhibit Rendering
  • The Watkins Building


    The Museum is housed in the historic Watkins Building in downtown Lawrence, Kansas.

    Watkins Building
  • Beer Night


    Fresh local brews and old local history were united at Beer Night on January 19, 2013.

    Beer Night
  • The Community Room


    The Community Room is often used for receptions, reunions and family gatherings.

    Community Room
  • The Milburn


    See a rare Milburn electric car on display in the exhibit area of the Watkins Museum.

    The Milburn
  • More than a Game: Basketball and Community Spirit


    Visitors explore the exhibition and discover basketball as a source of community pride and a force for social change in Douglas County.

    More than a Game
  • Trivia Night


    A crowd gathers to test their knowledge at one of the Watkins’ Trivia Night events.


Cole’s Cam

Taking you behind the scenes at the Watkins

Cole’s Cam takes you behind the scenes at the Watkins Museum. For more inside info on Watkins Museum programs, exhibits, and collections, visit our YouTube page.


Three Grants Make New Interactive Exhibit Possible

May 31, 2016
Lawrence and Douglas County have a long and storied past as champions of social justice and civil rights. Visitors to the Watkins Museum will soon have a new opportunity to explore the more recent past in a new interactive exhibit examining activism from the 1960s to the 1990s.

This ground-breaking exhibit, scheduled to open in early 2017, will feature photos, digitized documents, videos, and audio clips drawn from the museum’s collections. It was inspired by recent gifts of materials from local LGBT groups and the papers of the Lawrence Coalition for Peace and Justice. Generous grants from the Douglas County Community Foundation, Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area, and the Douglas County Heritage Conservation grant program, along with support from the City of Lawrence and DCHS members, will make it possible to provide this opportunity to experience this important era through the eyes of those who lived it. The exhibit will be on permanent display on the museum’s second floor.


Architect’s rendering of civil rights interactive exhibit

Exhibitions Now on View

Freedom Day: The History of Juneteenth
Second Floor Bank Lobby, June 7–July 12, 2016

Faster, Higher, Stronger: Douglas County Olympians
Second Floor, opens July 27

Campgrounds & Battlefields: The Lives of Civil War Soldiers
Second Floor, opens August 13, 2016

Gathered Nations: The 1926 Haskell Pow Wow
Second Floor, through August 6.

Hidden Forces: The Kansas People’s History Project
Second Floor, through July 17, 2016

Watkins: The Couple, the Building, the Legacy
First Floor Lobby

Community Room

Community Room is available for your receptions, birthday party or reunion. Call 1-785-841-4109 for more information.
Read more here.