Connecting our Community to its Past through Digital Resources

Watkins Museum of History
  • Steve Nowak, Executive Director, Watkins Museum of History
  • Sarah Bell, Development Director, Watkins Museum of History
  • Will Haynes, Director of Engagement and Learning, Watkins Museum of History
  • Brittany Keegan, Curator of Exhibits and Collections, Watkins Museum of History

Project Description

The Watkins Museum of History is spearheading a digital storytelling initiative that will result in the creation of curated digital collections and a public digital research facility. The first step in this initiative will focus on internal processes at the museum, including an updated website and software to host the digital storytelling components, namely online exhibits and digitized research materials. This process will include assessing what the museum needs to accomplish the project, procuring the necessary equipment, selecting documents for digitization, and creating the online exhibits and curated collections. After completing this process, the museum would enter the second step of the initiative, which includes a focus on community support. Under this phase, the museum would assist local community organizations with their digitization efforts and storytelling through classes and workshops. The community-focused portion of this initiative would culminate in the establishment of a public digital research facility at the Grover Barn Underground Railroad historic site, a longer-term project that will operate through the collaborative efforts of the City of Lawrence, the Watkins Museum, the Lawrence Public Library, the Hall Center for the Humanities, and KU’s Institute for Digital Research in the Humanities.

Partner Details

  • Steve Nowak

    Executive Director, Watkins Museum of History


    Steve Nowak has over thirty years’ experience in museum work and a background in art, history, and material culture. He is a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis. Steve is enthusiastic about telling stories through artifacts and helping people make a personal connection with history: “I love the way ordinary things can make powerful connections to the past and the people that used them. That is what makes my job so exciting.” As director, he is involved with nearly everything that happens at the Watkins, from finance and building preservation to exhibits and programs, so every day is interesting.

  • Sarah Bell

    Development Director, Watkins Museum of History


    Sarah Bell loves building and cultivating relationships with the museum’s members. She believes members play an integral role in helping the Watkins provide so many captivating, educational programs and exhibits for our community. Sarah received her PhD in History and her MA in Museum Studies from the University of Kansas. Her research interests include women’s political activism at the turn of the 20th century, particularly suffrage and temperance. Sarah has always been drawn to public history because she enjoys sharing her love of history with a variety of audiences.

  • Will Haynes

    Director of Engagement and Learning, Watkins Museum of History


    Will Haynes Will’s job as Director of Engagement and learning well suits his love for museums, history, and writing. Will earned a PhD in history from the University of Kansas and has contributed to public history projects involving the New York Times, the Truman Library Institute, and the Kansas City Public Library. Will’s varied tasks at the Watkins include planning and promoting public events, managing volunteers and interns, and finding new ways to give museum visitors and members the best possible experience.

  • Brittany Keegan

    Curator of Exhibits and Collections, Watkins Museum of History


    Brittany Keegan As Curator at the Watkins Museum, Brittany identifies new artifacts for the collection, preserves existing collections, and plans exhibits that bring visitors face-to-face with our community’s history. As a lifelong Kansas who earned an MA in Museum Studies from KU, she enjoys uncovering amazing but little-known (and sometimes weird—ask her about the ice cream turf war of 1917!) stories from our local history.