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.

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

Coming Events
Thursday, March 25
Trivia Night: March Madness
7-9 p.m., $10. Reservation recommended.
Friday, March 27
Final Friday
5-8 p.m., Free.
Celebrating Women's History Month with a variety of demonstrations by textile artists. The evening also marks the opening of the museum's new temporary exhibit celebrating the 75th anniversary of the premier of the 1940 film Dark Command right here in Lawrence.
Saturday, April 18
Showing of the film-- The Dark Command
10:30 p.m. | 12:30 p.m. | 2:30 p.m. Free.
Starring John Wayne, Claire Trevor and Walter Pidgeon, the film premiered in Lawrence 75 years ago and was released on April 15, 1940.
Thursday , April 23, 2015
The Lawrence Promoters: High School Basketball in the Days of Jim Crow
7 p.m., Free
In a panel presentation moderated by Bill Tuttle, former Liberty Memorial High School students and members of the Promoters Basketball Team—James Barnes, Leonard Monroe, and Verner Newman—
Friday, April 24, 2015
Final Friday: Flashback Friday: Remembering the 1960s and 1970s
5 – 10 p.m., Free
Step into the Watkins Museum time machine and experience a variety of activities that recall the sights and sounds and struggles that characterize these turbulent times in Lawrence.
A special display, Preserving Military Heritage, will be on view in the Community Room

Saturday, April 25, 2015
Military Preservation Workshop: The Things They Carried Home
9:30–11:30 a.m., Free, Reservations recommended.
Museum curators will share how to care for your family's military heritage from uniforms and letters to medals & photographs. Funded in part by the Kansas Humanities Council.

Sunday, May 3, 2015
Oak Hill Cemetery Tour: Lawrence's Arlington
2 p.m. – 4 p.m., $5 for DCHS members and veterans, $10 for non-members in advance; $15 on the day of the tour. Advance tickets recommended
During this tour presenters will share selected stories of local veterans who served in America's wars.

Support Watkins Museum

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

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

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 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.


Watkins Museum and Kansas Humanities Council Announce Free Preservation Workshop

January 6, 2015

The Kansas Humanities Council and the Watkins Museum of History will present The Things They Carried Home – A Preservation Workshop for Veterans and their Families on Saturday, April 25, 9:30-11:30 a.m.  This free workshop offers an opportunity to learn how to care for items brought home from military service.  It will give special consideration to service in the Korean, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and the Iraq Wars. 

The workshop will be led by preservation consultant, Marla Day, and Watkins Museum Curator, Brittany Keegan, who will share tips on how to preserve uniforms, medals, letters, photographs, e-mail correspondence, or other important items that soldiers carried home.  Space is limited and reservations are required by April 17.  For more information or to make reservations contact Jan Shupert-Arick at 785-841-4109 or

Kansas Humanities Council

The Things They Carried Home workshops are part of Standing Together, a National Endowment for the Humanities initiative to promote understanding of the military experience and to support returning veterans.  The Watkins also thanks the Kansas Humanity Council for underwriting this workshop.


2015 Grants Expand Educational Programs at the Watkins Museum

Maggie Herrington Workbook Cover
Student workbook for Maggie Herrington’s Lawrence
January 5, 2015

Recently awarded grants from the Capitol Federal Foundation, the Barton P. and Mary D. Cohen Charitable Trust, and the Westar Energy Foundation will support the expansion of a program for third-graders that explores concepts of community through examples from local history.  Based on the journal of a student in Lawrence in 1867, Maggie Herrington’s Lawrence helps students explore what our community was like in its early years with handling artifacts and student mapping activities.

The program may be presented at the museum or in the classroom.  Grant funds will also be used to install family-focused interactive elements in the second floor permanent exhibit.  These interactive elements, including a gallery guide, handling artifacts, and a “smelling station,” will help visitors experience the sights, and smells, of life in early Lawrence.

DCHS Receives 2015 Rice Foundation Grant

January 2, 2015

The Douglas County Historical Society has been awarded a 2015 grant by the Ethel and Raymond F. Rice Foundation.  The grant will support the museum’s active internship program.  Rice interns assist museum staff in daily operations, research exhibitions, and develop public programs.  Interns are critical to the museum’s mission of public service and continued success.  We are grateful for the Rice Foundation’s ongoing investment in the museum’s future and our efforts to develop future museum professionals.


Exhibitions Now on View

A Stitch in Time: Lawrence History through Textiles
Second Floor—January 30 thru April 11, 2015

Doing Our Part: Lawrence During the Great War
Third Floor—closes April 18

The Eldridge Dining Table:  A Relic from Early Lawrence
Second Floor—closes March 7

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.