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Local Museums

Extraordinary collections, museums, and libraries

Thousands of works of art, millions of plant and animal specimens, and the nation's largest congressional archive denote the depth and breadth of KU's extraordinary collections available for public viewing at no cost.

Lawrence and Douglas County offer historic areas, museums, and buildings rich with stories and exhibits celebrating life and those living it. The Freedom's Frontier National Heritage Area also calls Lawrence home, sharing the nation's struggle for freedom across 29 eastern Kansas and 12 western Missouri counties, which led to the Civil War and a continued fight for freedom.

The Kansas City metropolitan area and Kansas' capital city of Topeka are home to museums and libraries dedicated to presidents, art, jazz, cultural and state history, military aviation, and much more.

Right in the middle of it all? The KU Museum Studies Program, which offers our students the academic and professional training they need to prepare for challenging careers in museums, historical agencies, collections libraries, and similar institutions.

The holdings of the University's Spencer Research Library is highlighted on its website, with information about other university libraries.

Featured area, community, and university museums

The University of Kansas Natural History Museum & Biodiversity Institute

The Natural History Museum maintains research inventories of 7 million plant and animal specimens representing life on Earth, past and present. Among the most notable exhibits are huge fossils of Cretaceous-period sea creatures from the plains of Kansas and a historic diorama of North American mammals created for the Columbian Exposition of 1893.

Spencer Museum of Art

Seven galleries display selections from the permanent collection of more than 25,000 works of art. Special exhibitions drawn from the collection or touring from other museums are displayed in four additional galleries. Since the museum serves as a resource for the teaching and study of art history, fine arts, and the humanities, the collection is comprehensive in nature. It spans the history of European, North American, and East Asian art. Areas of special strength include medieval art; European and American paintings, sculpture, and prints; photography; Japanese Edo-period painting and prints; and 20th-century Chinese painting.

The University of Kansas Spencer Research Library

The unique collections at the Spencer Research Library include ancient and medieval manuscripts; one of the largest collections of Irish literature outside Dublin; special collections in the history of science and education; the Kansas Collection; the Wilcox Collection of Contemporary Political Movements; and the University Archives.

 

Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics

Just after the 1996 presidential election, officials at the University of Kansas approached Senator Dole in the hope of obtaining his personal and public papers. From the outset, Dole insisted that he wanted no personal monument. Rather, he favored creation of a nonpartisan institution dedicated to public service and training for leadership. The Dole Institute houses Senator Dole’s papers, along with seminar and meeting rooms, exhibits, broadcast facilities, and a central forum set aside for debate and discussion of public issues.

Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City is one of the country's premier art institutions. Its rich collections bring together masterpieces from every culture and period of the world, spanning over 5,000 years. The museum opened its doors in 1933 as a gift to the community from William Rockhill Nelson (1841-1915), founder of The Kansas City Star.

National World War I Museum and Memorial 

The historical collections of the Liberty Memorial Museum began years before an actual museum building existed. Immediately after the armistice of November 11, 1918, a group of Kansas citizens gathered to propose a memorial to the men and women who served in the war and to those who died. The earliest ideas for the memorial included a museum of objects from the war. Today the museum and memorial are equally well known.

Kansas State Historical Society

The society is headquartered at the Kansas History Museum & Library, in Topeka. Here you'll find four buildings and a nature trail on 80 acres of woodlands and prairie at the capital city's western edge. The complex presents dramatic exhibits and fascinating programs to thousands of visitors each year.

Negro Leagues Baseball Museum

Founded in 1990, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum is a privately funded, nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving the rich history of African-American baseball. The museum is designed as an education tool. Visitors experience an immersive environment of information, sound, and nostalgia.

Watkins Community Museum of History

The Douglas County Historical Society is a private, nonprofit organization with a mission to collect and preserve historical materials of Douglas County, Kansas, to interpret local history, and to encourage research.

 

Strawberry Hill Museum and Cultural Center

The Strawberry Hill Ethnic Cultural Society was formed in 1988 to promote, sponsor and preserve the ethnic heritage prevalent in Kansas City, Kansas. While focusing on Croation culture, the Strawberry Hill Museum also hosts permanent exhibits representing other cultures in the community which include Danish, Lithuanian, Netherlands, Polish, Slovakian, Slovenian, Russian, and Ukrainian. Traditional items on display include colorful handmade clothing, original works of glass, wood craftsmanship and musical instruments.

Booth Family Hall of Athletics

The Booth Family Hall of Athletics is a 26,000-square-foot museum adjacent to the east side of Allen Fieldhouse. This facility opened in January 2006 and is open year-round, allowing Jayhawk fans everywhere to experience the history and tradition of Kansas Athletics. The hall honors KU's historic athletics programs, its coaches and student-athletes, past and present.

Combat Air Museum

The Combat Air Museum houses a wide variety of military aviation artifacts ranging in time from WWI to the present day. Aircraft engines of many sizes and types are on exhibit as well. A re-creation of a German POW barracks was constructed based on firsthand experience of two museum members, authentic down to the bare light bulbs, straw-filled mattresses, and barbed wire. Exhibits include an extensive display of artifacts and dioramas and a growing gallery of military aviation art.

The DeBruce Center

The DeBruce Center is dedicated to James Naismith's original "Rules of Basket ball" and the history of the sport in Kansas and at KU. The facility houses the original rules of basketball, displays centered on James Naismith, the "Father of Basketball", and Forrest "Phog" Allen, the "Father of Basketball Coaching", and displays on the impact of Kansas basketball (both coaches and players) on the national rise of the sport.

Historic Lecompton

​Lecompton is the Kansas Territorial Captial, and the site of the "Lecompton Constitution" for Kansas, a controversial document that would have admitted Kansas into the union as a pro-slavery state. Written in Constitution Hall, the Lecompton Constitution was a spark for a chain of events eventually leading to the Civil War. Historic Lecompton has several historic sites and a museum dedicated to the city and to the rise of pre-Civil War tensions in Kansas.

Johnson County Museum

The Johnson County Museum is committed to expanding the public’s sense of community through an understanding of the county’s history and its place in American society. To achieve this purpose, the museum collects and preserves artifacts and information that document the county’s heritage, and produces interpretive exhibits, educational programs, and publications. The museum is dedicated to the belief that we can learn from the past to understand better the present and future.

Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop & Farm

The Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop and Farm in Olathe, Kansas, is a living history site based on the Mahaffie family who founded the farm in 1857. Centered exclusively on the Civil War period in Kansas, the site's visitor center tells a comprehensive story of the earlier strife and border wars in Kansas and Missouri year round. The living history farm, with activities and stagecoach operations, functions in the spring, summer, and fall. 

Old Castle Museum

As the first home of Baker University, Old Castle was once known as "The College Building," because at that time it was the first and only college building in the state. Now as a museum, the Old Castle houses artifacts from early Kansas, Methodist, and Baker history.

Wilcox Classical Museum

The Wilcox Classical Museum was established in 1886 and is operated by the Department of Classics at the University of Kansas. The museum houses collections of plaster casts of Greek and Roman sculptures and Greek and Roman antiquities.

Museums in the Surrounding Area

 

Read the latest MUSE News!

Find out what KU's Museum Studies Program and our alumni are up to:

September 2017 Newsletter
January 2017 Newsletter