Watkins Community Museum of History deserves the community's support.
The Watkins Community Museum of History is an important part of Lawrence and Douglas County and deserves the community's support as it works through financial and management challenges that recently came to light.
Salaries of two top museum employees have been reduced, and the museum's board is assuming management duties for the facility until funds can be raised to hire an administrator. Faced with a tight financial situation of its own, the Douglas County Commission turned down a request from the museum this year for $60,000 to fund the new position. The county provides about 20 percent of the museum's budget.
Many private donors have been generous in their support of the museum over the years, but keeping the museum, its staff and its building afloat is no small task. The former Watkins Bank building that houses the museum is, itself, an important part of Lawrence history, but it is expensive to maintain. Staffing the museum, which houses collections and responds to many community demands also is a challenge.
The two employees whose salaries have been reduced, have been mainstays of the museum, and hopefully, their services will not be lost to the community. At the same time, the museum's governing board has a responsibility to deal with financial problems that, if not addressed, could imperil this important community asset.
There is increasing interest locally in capitalizing on Lawrence's significant history to attract more tourism to the city. Watkins museum would be a key player in any plans to pursue that goal. Local residents interested in preserving and promoting Lawrence and Douglas County history should rally to this cause and make sure Watkins museum is a part of the community's future, not just its past.