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. (May–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, October 22
Group Visit to Midwest Genealogy Center in Independence, MO
9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Free.
Genealogy research experts Richard and Alisa Branham will serve as guides to the resources of the Center. Travel on your own. Visit any time during the designated hours and the Branhams will be available to provide assistance. Contact Alisa at to register or for more information.
Friday, October 28
Final Friday: Enriching the Future: The Pinckney School Collection and Lawrence History Film
5-8 p.m., free
Visitors will view art and artifacts from the collection of historic Pinckney School displayed on our reopened third floor. Additionally, we'll debut a new short film, Bleeding Kansas, the Letters of Edward P. Fitch, produced by Explore Lawrence and featuring letters held in the Watkins collections. The film will be shown every 20 minutes.
Monday, October 31
Trick-Or-Treat at the Watkins
5-8 p.m., free
Stop in for candy and a ghostly scavenger hunt of our newly reopened third floor!
Saturday, November 5
Play12 reading of Ric Averill’s script The Man She Was
Time TBD
Sponsored by the Lawrence Arts Center and featuring the work of local playwright Ric Averill, this script reading tells the story of gender roles in the Civil War.
Saturday, November 12
Genealogy Class: Introduction to Maps and Land Records
10:00 a.m.-noon, $15; $10 DCHS members.
Richard Branham shares tips for researching where your family lived using a variety of sources and materials. Visit this link to register or call 785-841-4109.
Saturday, November 12
Exhibit Opening: Power Forward: 125 Years of Basketball
1-3:00 p.m., free
Opening at the Watkins before it begins a national tour, this exhibition celebrates the 125th anniversary of the invention of the game by Dr. James Naismith. At 2:00 p.m. a panel discussion, Art of Conversation: Sports and Social Justice, will consider the role sports plays in our community.
Thursday, November 17
DCHS Annual Meeting
Eldridge Hotel, 6-8:00 p.m., $40/person
Come celebrate the 125th anniversary of the invention of basketball—a game that has had tremendous impact in our community. This year’s featured speaker will be Sheahon Zenger, University of Kansas Athletic Director.
To register, call 785-841-4109, e-mail, or register online here
Sponsored in part by the Eldridge Hotel
Saturday, December 3
Tails and Traditions Family Festival
10:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m., free
Activities, performances, and family fun on the day of the Downtown Lawrence Old-Fashioned Christmas Parade mark the beginning of the holiday season at the Watkins Museum.
Sponsored in part by the Lawrence Sertoma Club

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
  • Smell Your Way Back in Time


    A new Family Guide and hands-on activities in the Watkins Bank’s original tellers’ counter help family visitors explore life in early Lawrence.

    New Exhibit Rendering
  • Recently Renovated


    The Watkins Museum’s recently renovated main stair hall

    Recently Rennovated
  • Distinguished Visitors


    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.


Cole’s Cam

Taking you behind the scenes at the Watkins

Cole’s Cam takes you behind the scenes at the Watkins Museum. For more inside info on Watkins Museum programs, exhibits, and collections, visit our YouTube page.


Watkins Museum Quilt

Watkins Museum Quilt

Created by Mary L. Boucher of Lawrence in 2016, this work of art took three months to complete. The quilt is made with the raw edge applique technique. The cotton fabrics were selected for their artistic quality—for instance, the wood-grained patterned border fabric which is reminiscent of the curly yellow pine woodwork on the museum’s third floor. 1,470 yards of multi-colored thread add detail to the fabrics.

When Mary donated the wall hanging to the museum, she indicated that it was her “hope that funds generated by this donation will continue the preservation of the history of Lawrence, a city I have been privileged to call home since 1975.”

Tickets for a drawing to win the quilt are $5 each or 5 for $20. They are available for purchase at the at the museum’s front desk, by calling 785-841-4109, or by using the “Donate” button on the museum’s website home page.

The winning ticket will be drawn at the museum’s Tails and Traditions Family Festival on Saturday, December 3, 2016.

Exhibitions Now on View

Faster, Higher, Stronger: Douglas County Olympians
Second Floor, through November 5

Campgrounds & Battlefields: The Lives of Civil War Soldiers
Second Floor, opens August 13, 2016

Enriching the Future: The Pinckney School Collection
Third Floor, opens October 28

Power Forward: 125 Years of Basketball
Second Floor, opens November 12

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.