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

The Watkins Museum’s public
spaces are fully accessible.
Coming Events
Saturday, December 5
Tails and Traditions Family Festival
10 AM-3 PM, Free
Enjoy downtown Lawrence's Old Fashioned Christmas Parade and kick off the holiday season with a day of activities, crafts, and music.
Presented in partnership with the KU Museum Studies Program, the Spencer Museum of Art and the KU International Centers. Refreshments sponsored by Checkers.
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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
  • 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
  • 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 Prestigious Arts Grants

(July 22, 2015)—The Douglas County Historical Society is honored to be among those chosen to receive an Artistic Innovations Grant from the Mid-America Arts Alliance and a grant from the Strategic Investment Program of the Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commission.  Both awards will support the Kansas People’s History Project, a partnership between the DCHS and five arts and education organizations from across the state, coordinated by lead artist Dave Loewenstein.  The Kansas People’s History Project will use art to shine a light on lesser known but greatly influential figures and events from the state’s past. The project includes the creation of a series of screen-printed broadsides with narratives, a comprehensive website, and a spring 2016 exhibition at the Watkins Museum of History.

To kick-off the project, Loewenstein will be touring the state August 23 through 29, leading people’s history workshops for those interested in participating.  Scheduled sites include Salina, Wichita, Newton, Pittsburg, and Lawrence with more to be added soon.

Visit this link (PDF) for more information or visit the project website.





Exhibitions Now on View

Shared Spirits: Exploring Dia de los Muertos
Second Floor, October 6 through November 30, 2015

Four Days in Cornville: The 1939 National Cornhusking Contest
Third Floor, August 28 through December 5, 2015

Under Protest: Emigrant Tribes in Franklin County, Kansas
Second Floor, September 25, 2015 through January 9, 2016

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.