In addition to the core exhibits about Douglas County history on display at Watkins Museum, such as this 1870s playhouse, there is always something new to see, according to Steve Nowak, Executive Director.
Sometimes the “new” is an addition to an existing exhibit. For example, the story of Lawrence’s efforts to establish a Fair Housing Ordinance in the 1960’s has been added to the “Enduring Struggles—Lawrence Fights for Change.” Documents, music, photographs, artifacts, and oral histories combine in an interactive display highlighting Lawrence’s spirit of activism and community spirit in various decades.
Changing exhibits can focus attention on a particular aspect of local history. For example, “Community and Culture: the Lawrence Turnverein” tells the story of the Germans who were among the earliest settlers in Lawrence.
“Hidden Treasures: Staff Favorites from the Watkins Collection” showcases artifacts in new ways. Find a cowboy hat signed by John Wayne and a sculpture made of the soles of shoes, as well as other treasures.
“Mass St. Magic—Weaver’s Window Displays” celebrates the 160th anniversary of the local department store by recreating some of the window displays it featured over the years. Founded in 1857, Weaver’s is one of the longest running department stores in the United States. Even in 1850’s, it was known to bring NYC fashion to Lawrence.
On Saturday, December 2, the museum will host “Tails and Traditions Holiday Festival.” Stop by between 9 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. for prime horse parade-viewing spots, snacks, kids’ crafts and games, and live holiday music. The Watkins Museum of History hosted 17,500 visitors in 2017, up from 6,000 seven years ago when Nowak began his tenure.
Megan Hill, Major Gifts Officer for the Boys and Girls Club of Lawrence, highlighted a robust history and a “great future” fof the organization.
She described the new Don and Beverly Gardner Center for Great Futures that will open in the fall of 2018 to house teen activities, replacing the small Teen Center on Haskell Avenue. Situated adjacent to the College and Career Center in southeast Lawrence, the new building will allow the school district and the Boys and Girls Club to share and maximize the spaces of each facility. The new construction includes a gymnasium, maker-space, performing arts area, a culinary arts kitchen, admininstrative offices, and classrooms. Although they have raised most of the $4.25 million capital campaign goal, fundraising will continue to complete capital donations and to raise on-going money for programming.
The local club is one of the largest per capita in the country, serving 1,500 young people each day. It partners with the Lawrence school district to provide after-school programming in all fourteen elementary schools in Lawrence. Middle school and high school students are bussed to the Teen Center on Haskell Avenue. All programming supports academic success, healthy living, and character and citizenship, fulfilling the organization’s mission: “To enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens.”
Hill asked Rotarians to explain how Boys and Girls Club had impacted their households. The responses from the group echoed the reasons why others say the program is so valuable: supervision after the school day when working parents cannot be at home; tutoring and help with homework; physical activity and good nutrition; welcoming friends, mentors, and tutors.
Julie Belluci and Maren Ludwig, out-going chairs of the Lawrence St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee, gave a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the year-round planning and fundraising that goes into this Lawrence tradition. The 2017 parade was the thirtieth one, once again bringing enthusiastic crowds to Mass Street and raising significant money for youth organizations in Douglas County.
The St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee, a 501c(3) entity, raises money through a long list of special events over the course of many months. It counts between 40 and 70 voting members who meet between August and April to plan not only the parade but also a wide variety of fund-raising activities. The group interviews and selects non-profit entities to receive funds and manages distributions from “Sully’s Pot of Gold,” a pool of supplemental emergency funds that they have established.
Non-profit organizations in Douglas County involved with serving youth can apply to be sponsored by the St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee. By applying, groups agree to provide volunteers to help raise funds and run events.
This year the Parade Committee distributed $75,000 to three non-profits. They gave $25,000 to Big Brothers/Big Sisters Douglas County to help them establish matches of youth in their program with mentors who are law enforcement; $25,000 to Douglas County CASA to fund training for more adult volunteers to assist children in foster care and the court system; and $25,000 to Sunrise Project to help them renovate space for their gardening/nutrition/cooking programs for preschool and elementary age children.
The City of Lawrence received great news and Lawrence Central is proud to have helped the city to be able to achieve this designation!
The City of Lawrence has been honored again as a Bronze Rank Bicycle Friendly Community (BFC). The City first received this designation in 2004 from the American League of Bicyclists. There are now 404 communities recognized in the U.S. as Bicycle Friendly Communities; this is Lawrence’s fifth successful application. The Bronze level BFC award recognizes Lawrence’s commitment to improving conditions for bicycling through investment in bicycling promotion, education programs, infrastructure and pro-bicycling policies.
Lawrence-Douglas County Bicycle Advisory Committee members prepared the application utilizing information, such as data collected from bike/pedestrian counts, safety material, outreach efforts, and lane mileage. This year’s application featured Lawrence’s completion of a number of projects that will form the “Lawrence Loop”, a 22-mile paved off-street path around the city, the bicycle education provided by Lawrence’s League Certified Cycling instructors, the on-bicycle safety education at local elementary schools, and the recent commitment in the city budget for bicycling and pedestrian infrastructure improvements. The Lawrence Central Rotary Club’s Community Bike Ride, Safe Kids Douglas County Bicycle Rodeo and Helmet giveaways, the Tour of Lawrence, the Lawrence Mountain Bicycle Club’s partnership with Parks & Recreation for the development and maintenance of the Lawrence River Trails trail, the National Bicycle Challenge, and 100 percentage of buses equipped with bike racks were also highlighted as part of the application process.
By the numbers, Lawrence now has 16 miles of bike lanes, 9 miles of shared-lane markings (sharrows), 39 miles of signed bike routes, and 45 miles of paved shared use paths.
Four Kansas communities have received the Bicycle Friendly designation: Lawrence, Topeka, Manhattan, and Shawnee. Find out more information online at www.bikeleague.org/bfa.
The Burroughs Creek Trail in East Lawrence is a paved path and parkway running for 1.7 miles from 11th Street at the north end to 23rd Street on the south. The trail leads walkers, runners, and bikers past sites that were significant in Lawrence history, blending both health and history for all who travel its length.
In a presentation to Lawrence Central Rotarians, Henry Fortunato explained the variety of historic places found along to the Burroughs Creek Trail. The path “ties together William Clarke Quantrill, and Langston Hughes, 19th-century travelers on the Oregon Trail and World War II-era German prisoners of war, the artistry of William S. Burroughs and the agricultural history of Douglas County, plus a long-forgotten railroad line and a number of dimly-remembered east side neighborhood notables whose names still grace streets and parks,” to quote the Lawrence Public Library website.
Fortunato, retired director of public affairs at the Kansas City Library and recent Simons Public Humanities Fellow at the Hall Center for the Humanities at the University of Kansas, made headlines in 2014 for walking 500 miles across Kansas. He said in interviews at the time that he wanted to “take the love for walking and exploring and create something everyone can enjoy.” He envisioned combining “all the things he’s learned in his professional career — public history, presentation, use of graduate students, humanities, and traveling exhibits — to enhance the walking and hiking trail experience in the greater Kansas City area by creating well designed interpretive panels” that tell about what happened along those trails. Happily, Lawrence has become the beneficiary of Fortunato’s vision.
Fortunato’s comments referenced the traveling exhibit of ten panels that tell the stories of people, places, and events associated with the trail. The exhibit is currently hosted at Watkins Museum of History. By next spring, the panels of the traveling exhibit will be translated into interpretive signage along the Burroughs Creek Trail itself that will explain the points of interest and the history of area to people as they travel the length of the path.