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!

Coming Events

Friday, August 29, 2014
Final Friday
6-8 p.m. Free.

Thursday, Sept. 18, 2014
World War I Lecture Series: Bill Fischer, "The Realities of Great War Aviation?"
7 p.m. Free.

Friday, Sept. 26, 2014
Final Friday
6-8 p.m. Free.

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
  • Civil War on the Western Frontier


    Events scheduled August 11–22, will commemorate Civil War on the Western Frontier. Read more »

    Civil War on the Western Frontier
  • 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.


DCHS Receives Douglas County Heritage Grant

The Douglas County Historical Society was awarded a grant of $10,000 from the Douglas County Heritage Conservation Council’s Natural and Cultural Heritage Grant Program. The funds will partially support a $40,000 project to refurbish, improve, and add interpretive materials to the museum’s Stair Hall, the first part of an effort to complete the new core exhibit that is planned for the third floor. We are grateful to the Council and to the Douglas County Board of Commissioners for their support.

Stair Hall view

Kansas Riverkings Available as Lecture Tour

The former Watkins Museum exhibit, Kansas Riverkings:Life on the Kaw is still available to the public as an ongoing lecture tour. Curator and educator Barbara Higgins-Dover will bring artifacts, stories, and images of life as a commercial fisherman on the Kansas River to a program at your site. The focus is on eight men who lived between 1890 and 1970. Presentations are approximately two hours long with a question and answer session at the end. For more information or to schedule a lecture contact Ms. Higgins-Dover at 785-393-9525 or via email

The Riverkings lecture tour debuted in the summer of 2013 under a grant from the Kansas Humanities Council. Over the summer and fall, Ms. Higgins Dover presented programs in Lawrence, Desoto, Lecompton, Eudora, and Perry, KS. Her engaging program explores a little-known aspect of our community’s history and brings to life the stories of the men who made a living fishing on the Kansas River.

Exhibitions Now on View

Bringing the East to the West: Lawrence and the Railroads
Second Floor

1st Kansas Colored Volunteer Infantry Mural Project
Third Floor

From Classroom to Café: A Century of Student Hangouts
Second Floor

Mass Street Merchant: The Leo Beuerman Story
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.