The Watkins Community Museum of History knows a lot about this area's past, but it hasn't always done as good a job of looking to the future.
Now, with the help of a grant from county government, the Douglas County Historical Society is trying to remedy that situation. A museum consultant has been hired to assess the entire Watkins operation and help develop a long-range plan for the museum.
The historical society, which oversees the museum, deserves credit for mounting a huge effort in the 1970s to save the former Watkins building. The building itself is a community treasure and serves as a wonderful repository for many local documents and artifacts.
The museum also has hosted many good programs and exhibits, but, especially in recent years, it hasn't been the hub of activity that many local residents would like. Lawrence has a rich and interesting history, and the wonderful Watkins Museum seems like a natural place to share that story.
With Lawrence and Douglas County playing a major role in plans for a new National Heritage Area, it's especially important for the museum to know where it is headed and what part it should play in showcasing local history. It's a perfect time for the historical society to fully evaluate the museum and its mission. The museum's director was dismissed earlier this year and the museum currently is operating with a part-time interim director. If society members want to initiate new programs or head in a new direction, they can keep those goals in mind as they seek a new leader.
This examination of the museum's future is full of opportunities for increased participation by community members as well as visitors from outside the area. A museum with a dynamic new direction is likely to inspire new community support, both in dollars and volunteerism, and perhaps open doors to grant funds to support the local effort.
Transitions can be difficult, but, as illustrated by this area's own tumultuous history, change isn't a bad thing. Congratulations to the county and the historical society board for undertaking this important effort. We look forward to hearing more about the museum's plans for the future.