Watkins Museum exhibition to spotlight abolitionist John Brown

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Also: Watkins’ research room, archives to get major renovation

A new traveling exhibition on abolitionist John Brown will make its debut at Lawrence’s Watkins Museum of History next Saturday.

The exhibition, featuring portraits by artist Brad Sneed, will tell the story of Brown’s childhood roots in Ohio to his role in the Bleeding Kansas era, to his plan to start a slave insurrection at Harpers Ferry, Virginia (now West Virginia). That plan ultimately led to Brown’s demise as he was hanged for treason.


“‘Encountering John Brown’ explores the history of the man who helped start the Civil War through firsthand accounts and vivid illustrations of the Americans, from widely recognized to largely unknown, whose lives were altered by their encounters with the man,” according to a news release from the Watkins Museum.

Sneed is an artist and book illustrator who studied illustration at the University of Kansas and lives in Prairie Village with his family, according to the release. He has illustrated more than 20 books in his career.

A sneak peek image of the exhibition reveals that one panel is devoted to Harriet Tubman, who said of Brown, “He done more in dying than 100 men would in living.” Tubman risked her life numerous times to rescue people who were enslaved in the south, and accomplice Brown referred to her as “General Tubman.”

The exhibition will be on display at the Watkins from Saturday, Sept. 4 through Nov. 6, in the first floor community room. Masks are required for everyone ages 2 and up.

Find more information, including how to purchase tickets, at this link.

Watkins Museum of History Encountering John Brown exhibitiion coming to the Watkins Museum of History, Sept. 4 – Nov. 6, 2021

More news from the Watkins:

Public research services at the museum will be suspended starting Wednesday, Sept. 1 — but staff expects them to return better than ever.

Carol J. Koenig donated $75,000 in memory of her mother, Daisy Viola Kramer Koenig, who grew up in Douglas County. Thanks to that donation, the Watkins is undergoing a renovation of its spaces dedicated to archival collections and public research, according to a separate news release from the museum.

“The project includes restoration of the building’s original architectural details and a reconfiguration of the space to accommodate changing community needs and meet professional standards for archival management,” according to the release. “When completed, the project will feature a new public use space, expanded storage, and updated equipment for digitizing and processing archival collections.”

Museum staff will begin relocating materials starting Wednesday, and work in the space will begin in spring 2022. The renovated research room, to be renamed the Kramer Family Research Room, is expected to be completed in summer 2022.

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