Watkins Museum of History to debut third floor after 8 years of planning

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Following years in the making, the Watkins Museum of History this weekend will open its third floor core exhibit to the public.

“After eight years of planning, development, and fabrication, we are thrilled to bring this project to completion,” Steve Nowak, executive director of the museum, said in a news release. “The new permanent exhibits will showcase unusual and inspiring stories of Lawrence’s history in up-to-date and engaging new ways. Visitors can connect with history using all their senses and experience the past in a hands-on way we hope will make a museum visit informative and fun.”

Museum staff and volunteers encourage visitors to come tour the “stories from Douglas County’s past” being told through artifacts, photos, video and audio recordings and interactive technology, according to the release.

New topics that are part of the third floor’s permanent exhibit include: Molding Minds, Making Memories: The Universities of Douglas County; Jayhawk Spirit: KU Basketball; Engines of Diversity: The Impact of the Railroads; The Power of Education: Public Schools; Big Ideas on the Prairie: Innovators and Entrepreneurs; Reel Lawrence: Our Town in the Movies; and Changing Times: Living Lawrence History.

“Eight years is a long time. We’re so excited to finally debut the majority of our third floor core exhibit,” Will Haynes, the Watkins’ director of engagement and learning, said via email.

“While a few pieces are yet to be finished, visitors can now experience a wealth of local history stories through computer interactives, audio and video clips, and one-of-a-kind artifacts. Join us on September 10 and 11 and you’ll get the inside story of the Watkins Building’s construction from J.B. Watkins himself, display your college memories and do much more.”

The third floor will officially debut on and visitors are invited to stop by from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 10, and 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 11. Admission will be free, as it is during all weekends at Watkins Museum, 1047 Massachusetts St. The third floor is accessible via stairs and an elevator. 

The debut weekend is purposely scheduled to coincide with the Downtown Lawrence September Sidewalk Sale on Sept. 10, according to the release. 

To learn more about the Watkins Museum and its upcoming events, visit its website.

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Maya Hodison (she/her), equity reporter, can be reached at mhodison (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

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