Archive for Saturday, July 8, 2006

Museum progress

July 8, 2006


To the editor:

Megan Helm reveals a lack of understanding and a disregard for financial realities in her letter to the editor in the Journal-World of June 29, ("Exhibits lacking").

The Watkins Community Museum of History, being run by the Douglas County Historical Society, does not have the same financial resources for curating exhibits and creating programs as the Kansas Museum of History, run by the Kansas State Historical Society in Topeka.

In spite of financial limitations, the board of directors for the Douglas County Historical Society and Rebecca Phipps, director of the museum, have worked hard over the last two years to position the museum as an active participant in the community by bringing in outside exhibits ("Celebrating the Year of Rooster," from Taiwan), creating exhibits from the museum's collections ("Vietnam: A Self-inflicted Wound," "150 Years of Lingerie"), offering educational workshops for all ages and improving the museum's organizational structure to maintain a well-run museum based on accessioned, cataloged collections that reflect the history of the citizens of Douglas County.

The museum also offers a Web site ( that details the exhibits, programs and short- and long-term plans for the museum.

Why doesn't Ms. Helm, as a member of the "community," volunteer her money, her time and her energy to helping the Watkins "Community" Museum of History create the exhibits she feels are lacking?

Jennifer Dropkin,



Kookamooka 11 years, 9 months ago

I agree with Megan Helm. I don't think she was off the mark at all. I visited the other day and the place is less interesting than the antique mall down the street. And I disagree that it would cost all that much to make the place more interesting. Rebecca Phipps says they need a grant to add a reading area. WHAT? A grant for a few interesting old couches, a coffee table and books? Can't they borrow books from the public library? Don't they already have interesting documents that might be safely reproduced, laminated and available for reading?

Wilbur_Nether 11 years, 9 months ago

Oh, good grief. Kookamooka, the "reading area" is not like the Kansas Union Fourth Floor or a Barnes & Noble approach for casual browsers. Its use would be for researchers examining historical documents. The artifacts require a little more care than a couch and a coffee table and a couple of books from the public library.

TopekaBlade 11 years, 9 months ago

Thank you, Wilbur--your response to Kookamooka is far more polite than the one that's running through my head. Clearly there are at least two people that just don't get what a museum / historical society is.

KLM 11 years, 9 months ago

Did someone from Watkins Community Museum, or a friend of someone who works at the Museum, write this letter? The string of responses to Megan Helm's letters are surprising.

As a Lawrence resident, I personally don't believe Watkins is an active member of the community. As with any institution, there is room for improvement. However, all I see is people patting each other on the back. In each of these letters, the writers avoid addressing the issues by simply asking Ms. Helm to volunteer her time.

Volunteers are important, but probably they aren't in a position to help with long term goals of a museum. I usually don't respond to letters in the paper, but this is ridiculous.

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