Steve Nowak has a wish list. At the top of that list is a historical basketball, circa the James Naismith era.
The basketball would fill what Nowak said is a gap in the collection at Watkins Community Museum of History, 1047 Mass., where Nowak is executive director.
“An antique basketball from the early days would be a signature item in the collection,” he said. Naismith, the inventor of basketball, started Kansas University’s basketball program in 1898.
Nowak, who took over the directorship at the museum on Feb. 28, wants to push the museum toward being an educational tool filled with tangible historical objects. In the past, it’s been mainly a research station, but he wants the collection to tell stories.
The museum has 35,000 objects, so Nowak said he’s not sure what other gaps there are to fill with new pieces.
“We’re just now starting to identify stories we want to tell with the permanent collection,” he said.
Nowak said the museum was looking for artifacts such as the basketball or handwritten letters from 150 years ago. He said household items would be helpful and any photos that could accompany them.
“It’s always fun to look at stuff from the past and learn from it,” Nowak said.
From these items, Nowak hopes to create educational exhibits. His first shot at one will be this summer’s exhibition titled “It Happened on Mass Street: 150 Years in Lawrence.”
The exhibit will open Aug. 9 and look at various events on Lawrence’s main drag, from Quantrill’s Raid to civil rights protests to the 2008 NCAA National Championship celebration.
Collections and exhibits of this type help people understand the community they’re a part of, Nowak said.
“The most important thing for everyone to understand about history is that history was made by people like you and me,” he said. “When you read about it, it seems like heroes in books.”
To donate an item to the museum, call 841-4109 and speak with Nowak or museum curator Brittany Keegan. They will want to hear a description of the item and decide whether the museum wants it. Emails and letters are also welcome.