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. (June–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
Tuesday, February 16
Local History Trivia Night at 23rd Street Brewery
8-10 p.m.
Test your knowledge of local history or just enjoy great food, great drink, and support the Watkins Museum. 23rd Street Brewery will donate 10% of the proceeds from food sales to the Watkins.
Saturday, February 27
Introduction to Genealogy Class
10:00 a.m. — Noon, $10 per person, $5 DCHS members.
(This is a repeat of the class held on January 23)
Have you been thinking about researching your family history? We are offering a new program to help you get started! Two experienced volunteers, Richard and Alisa Branham, will introduce you to the basics of genealogy research through a fun, interactive group presentation, followed by time for conversation and individual consultation.
Richard Branham is a KU professor who has been researching his family history for 40+ years. Alisa is a KU staff member who caught the genealogy "bug" from her husband about 20 years ago; previously she worked for the Kansas State Historical Society. The Branhams will use a "flipped classroom" model for this class; they will send participants some items to study before class meets so the time together is more productive and aimed at your particular interests. This fun class will help kick-start your own research!
Register Online Here.

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
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Freedom's Frontier Heritage Area
The Watkins Museum is a partner in the Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area
  • New Book on Lawrence History


    Historian, editor, and DCHS member Virgil Dean has authored a new history of Lawrence; the book can is available in the museum bookshop.

    New Exhibit Rendering
  • Recently Rennovated


    The Watkins Museum’s recently renovated main stair hall

    Recently Rennovatedg
  • Distinguished Visitorss


    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.


2015 Members’ Challenge

In December, restoration and improvement of the museum’s third floor will begin with the support of a Douglas County Heritage Preservation Grant.  While this work is underway, we would like to refurbish the 1870s playhouse and develop new learning experiences for children and families so that the reopening of the third floor in 2016 offers more fun for our youngest visitors.

  • Donations of any amount are welcome
  • Make checks payable to Douglas County Historical Society, add “Members’ Challenge” to memo line
  • Donations may be sent to the Watkins Museum, 1047 Massachusetts St, Lawrence, KS 66044.
  • Or donate by clicking here

Improvements at the Watkins Museum Continue

In December, the Watkins Museum completed a renovation of the museum’s main stair hall.  This project included the installation of new lighting and interpretive window coverings and wall panels.

Stair Hall

The stair hall, home to the museum’s most significant original architectural features, now serves as an educational space exploring factors that have shaped Douglas County and introducing themes of third floor permanent exhibits to come.  Each window covering and panel illustrates a theme important in County history with images of documents, artifacts, and historic photographs drawn from the DCHS collection.  The project was funded through a grant from the Douglas County Natural and Cultural Heritage Preservation Grant Program, donations to the 2014 Douglas County Historical Society Members’ Challenge, and support from the City of Lawrence.

Renovation efforts are now focused on the museum’s third floor, which closed to the public in December.  Work there will include upgrades to the electrical system, new lighting, and restoration of original interior finishes.  This project, which is expected to last until summer, is also funded by the Douglas County Natural and Cultural Heritage Preservation Grant Program.

While the third floor is closed, the museum’s popular Victorian playhouse is also undergoing a renovation.  Though not available to the public now, it will be refreshed, refurnished, and ready for our youngest visitors when the third floor reopens later this year.

Douglas County Historical Society Receives Rice Foundation Grant

The DCHS is pleased to announce the award of a grant from the Ethel and Raymond F. Rice Foundation.  The grant will fund intern/assistant positions in the areas of collections management, education, and archives/research during 2016.  As the museum’s programming efforts, exhibit schedule, and public research inquiries have increased, assistance in these areas has become more and more important.  The Rice Foundation has been a longtime supporter of the DCHS.  Funding from the Rice Foundation over the past five years has made the Watkins Museum’s growth and revitalization possible.  We greatly appreciate their support.

Exhibitions Now on View

Under Protest: Emigrant Tribes in Franklin County, Kansas
Second Floor, September 25, 2015 through January 9, 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.