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.


goatdog 5 years, 6 months ago

I've used the Watkins Museum for research by visiting and by post for many years. I can honestly write that Steve Jansen was the most attentive and thorougharchivist I had met in a long time. Someone made a mistake when they relieved him of his position.


George_Braziller 5 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.


rattler 5 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?


not_holroyd 5 years, 6 months ago

Hawk calling someone else a hypocrite?Sounds like that condom is tied especially tight today.


hawkperchedatriverfront 5 years, 6 months ago

Get those documents out of that buidlling, that Watkins building and put them into the Carnegie building and use it for a historical research library. Use the Carnegie Foundation, use the Hall foundation, use the Kresge Foundation, use the Sprint Foundation, use every corporation in town that has matching gift programs . KU has been doing it for years and the Endowment is RICH.The musuem board needs to be reduced. It is an obstructionist group much like neighborhood groups.There is no sound financial plan for running the museum or for putting in place a financial foundation for future operations and funding.Some praise Jansen, even he wasn't smart enough to garner bequests large and small. He antagonized some of the donors at the time. Some who did leave money did it only out of their love for their town and hoped that the musuem might prosper because of their financial gifts , large and small. Watkins needs someone with imagination, a board that is not controlling and worrying about their own name recognition.I wish the Journal World would take a position and staff editorials would offer specifics of what the museum could do.I have and will continue to here and in the past in letters to the editor to get those documents out of Watkins and have a first rate library for research in the Carnegie, even if it means getting rid of Flanders. He should be promoting the Carnegie for library use as well. But when he cannot even get the library building cleaned, I'm not sure he is the one.Jansen had to rely on the generosity of a local person to pay for the janitorial services at Watkins. That person is no longer interested in the museum as I understand.Watkins operation is very much like the neighborhoodgroups, like Downtown Lawrence, just like a neighbrorhood group.Guts , imagination, and a bit crazy is what is needed for the next director of Watkins. Someone that the board willl give full reins to ride the horse. The Director then is responsibile and if failure occurs, no one to blame but the Director. Now it is apparent that the lackluster operation of Watkins has for some time, fallen on the board of Watkins.Remove the documents from the buillding and use the Carnegie in conjunction with Watkins.Both buidlings are off the tax rolls. Carnegie is sitting vacant and going into disrepair. What a bunch of knuckleheads in this town, that purports to save old buildings and most of all keep harping about everyone else to save their old building.Lawrence is not only in the dumb mode, but full of hypocrisy.


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