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.

Coming Events

Thursday, April 24
WWI Speaker Series
Shawn Faulkner, "The Devil’s Dilemma: Trench Warfare and the Challenges it Posed."

7:00 p.m. Free.

Friday, April 25
Final Friday, "Student Hangouts" exhibit opening. With Spencer Museum of Art and KU Hillel.
6-8 p.m. Free.

Friday, April 25
"Intersections: The First Annual Kansas Conference on History"
Keynote address, Dr. William Tuttle, KU Professor Emeritus

7:00 p.m. Free.

Thursday, May 8
Author Talk, Linda Johnston. Hope Amid Hardship: Pioneer Voices from Kansas Territory.
7:00 p.m. Free.

How to Find Us


View Watkins Museum of History
in a larger map

  • 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 Rice Foundation Grant


The Douglas County Historical Society has been awarded a 2014 grant of $16,000 from the Ethel and Raymond F. Rice Foundation. This grant will support two part-time internships at the Watkins Museum. One intern will assist in the development and presentation of public programs. The other intern will support efforts to catalogue, research, and exhibit the museum’s collection. We are grateful for the Rice Foundation’s on-going support of the museum and the internship program, which has become a critical part of our efforts to expand public programming and revitalize our changing exhibits.

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.

New Permanent Exhibit Opens to Record Crowds

Over 1,100 people visited the Watkins Museum on August 17, the opening day of a new permanent exhibit installed on the museum’s second floor. The day also featured a series of programs commemorating the 150th anniversary of Quantrill’s raid on Lawrence.

The opening marked the culmination of a two- year process of exhibit planning, development, and installation. The first phase of a multi-year project that will ultimately include the third floor as well, the exhibit features artifacts, documents, audio, and interactive technologies exploring Douglas County’s free-state struggle and its Civil War history, including the dramatic 1863 raid led by William Quantrill. The exhibit also examines how Lawrence rose from the ashes of that attack and, in more recent times, called on its early values to face the challenges of the civil rights era and anti-Vietnam War conflicts.

Exhibitions Now on View

Courage, Confidence, and Character: Girl Scouting In Lawrence
Third Floor, through April 12

Celebration Central: Parades on Massachusetts Street
Second Floor

For the Good of All: The Community Philanthropy of Elizabeth Miller Watkins
Second Floor, through April 26

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.