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
Admission is Free!

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. (June–October)
Tuesday–Saturday: 10 a.m.–4 p.m.
Closed Sunday, Monday and Holidays

Coming Events
Wednesday, July 29
Summer Games Series
10:30 a.m. – Noon., Free
Drop in and play games to celebrate summer fun in Lawrence.
Sponsored by The Toy Store

Friday, July 31
Final Friday Special Presentation: Soda Fountains of Kansas
7:00 p.m., Free
Historian Cindy Higgins will explore the glory days of the soda fountain in Kansas. Get a taste of the past with a root beer float available for only $1. This program is sponsored by the Kansas Humanities Council and Mass Street Soda.
Sunday, August 9
Summer Music Series
2:00 p.m., Free
Featuring Al Brune’s Ragtime Musicians
Various Days in August
The Civil War on the Western Frontier
A variety of programs and activities remember important events in Lawrence’s early history. See a detailed schedule of events.
Watkins Museum programming sponsored in part by Scotch Fabric Care Services.
Civil War on the Western Frontier

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
  • New Permanent Exhibit Opens


    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
  • The Community Room


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

    community room
  • Trivia Night


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


Douglas County Historical Society Receives
2015 Douglas County Heritage Grant

(May 27, 2015)— The Douglas County Historical Society is pleased to announce the award of a 2015 Natural and Cultural Heritage Grant from the Douglas County Heritage Conservation Council.  The $85,000 grant will support improvement of the infrastructure systems on the Watkins Museum's third floor, to prepare the space for eventual installation of new core exhibits.

Exhibit Space
Current view of the Watkins Museum third floor gallery space

Last renovated in the early 1970s, the third floor needs upgraded electrical, lighting, and security systems as well as repairs to the wood and mosaic floors and plaster walls.  Work will commence later this year.  This project will greatly improve the gallery's appearance and functionality.  When complete, the third floor will meet the standards expected for a 21st-century museum experience.  The DCHS is grateful for the support of the Heritage Council and the Douglas County Commissioners.

Exhibitions Now on View

Memorials & Memories: Honoring Lawrence’s Union Veterans
Second Floor

Progress Report: Education in Lawrence
Second Floor · May 19 thru September 5, 2015

Movie Stars on Mass Street: Lawrence and the Dark Command Premiere
Third Floor · April 18 thru August 8, 2015

Pleasant Distractions: Leisure Time in Lawrence
Third Floor

Reel Lawrence: Our Community’s Cinematic Past
Third Floor

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

More than a Game:Basketball and Community Spirit
Third Floor

Community Room

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