The Watkins Museum is a single building with three stories originally built sometime between 1885 and 1888. It was originally a bank owned by Jabez Watkins. It holds quite a bit of valuable information. The museum is interesting because it has small exhibits on many different topics pertaining to Kansas. There is one on John Brown with a small replica of his cabin. There is another on basketball and its origins. There was something very interesting in this small exhibit. It had pictures and descriptions of how Phog Allen endorsed different products for extra income. Many of us have probably seen commercials with Bill Self endorsing different companies. It was funny to me that this is a long-standing tradition. There are also exhibits that are for a limited time. One of these exhibits explained how Kansas played a role in the Underground Railroad.
Aside from the formal exhibits, a lot can be learned about the personality of Jabez Watkins. I know a bit about Jabez’s history; he was a pretty self-involved individual, an alcoholic, and concerned about his assets. As soon as you walk into the Watkins museum you see WATKINS written out in tile on the floor. Along the stairs are his initials in rod iron. The stairs themselves are made of marble. All of these details reinforce the stories I have heard of Jabez. I think the bank was a good choice to house the museum for several reasons. It is a really beautiful building with great detail work. Aside from that, the Watkins family gave so much through land and monetary donations to the Lawrence community. I think it is great to honor them by keeping the building around in this way.
It is interesting to move through the museum and think about the lens that has been put on it. Since in Lawrence we are very proud of our history it is somewhat biased to what we collectively think about our University and the outcome of the Civil War.
I think the museum is very neat and since it is free, it is definitely worth a visit!
“The Watkins Building,” Watkins Museum,
http://www.watkinsmuseum.org/The_Building.htm (accessed December 1st, 2009).
“Madeline in front of Watkins Museum” taken by unknown
“Watkins” taken by Madeline Johnson
“Jabez Initials” taken by Madeline Johnson