Archive for Thursday, October 2, 2008

Past and future

It’s the perfect time for the Douglas County Historical Society to consider a dynamic new direction for its community museum.

October 2, 2008


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.


rattler 9 years, 6 months ago

Someone should look into the recent work by the museum consultant at Andrew County Historical Society in Missouri. Assessing Watkins operations and future will need more than this lady.It's not feasible to operate another historical institution in Lawrence when so many other institutions overlap its proposed mission. Within 30 miles of Lawrence are two large library/archives where those papers could be cared for better than under the current ownership.It's sad when the fiscally and legally responsible board can't even read a few books or have a weekend retreat to learn their duties. Should Watkins just be sacrificed and turned into a solely Freedom's Frontier museum?

George_Braziller 9 years, 6 months ago

I'd just be happy being able to actually go into the museum and do some research. The files are in horrible condition. Even the "archivist" can't find anything. I was there about ten years ago and made some copies of some documents. Went back a little over a year ago because I wanted to make some better copies and the file was empty -- no one knew where they were. You could barely get into the space there was so much stuff piled on the floor and on every horizontal surface. No wonder she couldn't find it.

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