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

April–November
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)
December–March
Tuesday–Saturday: 10 a.m.–4 p.m.
Closed Sunday, Monday and Holidays


The Watkins Museum’s public
spaces are fully accessible.
Coming Events
Saturday, May 7
Genealogy Class #2: Census Research
10:00 a.m.-Noon
Richard and Alisa Branham will help you discover the wide range of information available in US and state census records, and will also discuss some census substitutes. Open to all genealogists, novice to expert!
Register online or by phone; $5 for DCHS members, $10 for non-members.
Saturday, May 14
A Walk-About Lawrence: Walking Tour of Historic Buildings and Public Spaces near 11th and Mass Streets
10:30 a.m.-noon, meet at the Watkins Museum, donation: $5/adult
Celebrate National Preservation Month and explore some of the most interesting, and sometimes intimidating buildings in Lawrence. Sponsored by the Douglas County Heritage Conservation Council and the Lawrence Preservation Alliance, the tour will include the Watkins Building, the Courthouse, South Park, and the Lawrence Community Building. Donations will help support efforts to preserve the stained glass windows featured in the Watkins Museum main stair hall.
Friday, May 27
Final Friday: Kansas People’s History Project
5–8 p.m.
Join us for the official opening of the exhibit Hidden Forces: The Kansas People’s History Project and listen to talks about this unique collaborative endeavor bringing to life fascinating people and events from the history of the Sunflower State.
Wednesdays, June 1, 8, 15, 22, 29
Olympic Games Wednesdays
10 a.m.-noon, Free
A free drop-in series for kids age 2+ and their families. New Olympic games, crafts, and activities each week. No reservations needed.
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.

Support Watkins Museum

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

How to Find Us

Map

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

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    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

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    The Watkins Museum’s recently renovated main stair hall

    Recently Rennovatedg
  • Distinguished Visitors

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    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

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

    New Exhibit Rendering
  • Quantrill’s Raid Artifacts

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

    Raid Artifacts
  • New Permanent Exhibit Opens

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

    New Exhibit Rendering
  • The Watkins Building

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

    Watkins Building
  • Beer Night

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

    Beer Night
  • The Community Room

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

    Community Room
  • The Milburn

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    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

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    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

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

    paperboys

Smell Your Way Back in Time

A new Family Guide and hands-on activities provide family visitors with a way to explore life in early Lawrence. The activities are housed in the Watkins Bank’s original second floor tellers’ counter. With things to see, things to touch, and things to smell, this interactive exhibit will help visitors experience what life was like in the 1860s Lawrence and learn more about the historic Watkins Building. The Family Guide takes visitors on a quest through the second floor core exhibit to search for artifacts that would have been familiar to Maggie Herrington, a schoolgirl in Lawrence, whose 1867 journal describes what it was like to grow up here way back then. This new exhibit is sponsored in part by the Capitol Federal Foundation, Maureen and Patrick Costello, and a 2014 Interpretive Grant from the Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area.

smells

Get the Inside Scoop on the Historic Watkins Building

A newly installed series of labels highlights original architectural features of the iconic Watkins Building, explains the original uses of its spaces, and shows historic views of the interior. Be sure to look for these labels, scattered throughout all three floors of the museum, for the inside scoop on this important historic structure that has been impressing Lawrence residents and visitors since 1888.

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Exhibitions Now on View

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

Hidden Forces: The Kansas People’s History Project
Second Floor, opening May 27, 2016

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


News
 
Community Room

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