The most popular story told at the Watkins is the story of Quantrill’s raid. But one of my favorite stories takes place in the years after the raid, when the town of Lawrence was a bustling little community on the Kansas River. It’s not a story in the sense that it has a beginning, middle, and end, but instead follows the day-to-day life of a girl living in a mid-19th century frontier town.
This girl, named Maggie Herrington, lived in Lawrence for most of her life. In 1867, one of her school assignments was to keep a journal. This journal survived long enough for the Watkins Museum to obtain a photocopy. In it, 13-year-old Maggie writes about her friends, the challenges of muddy streets, visiting family on their farms outside of town, and fears of being tardy to school—topics not so different from those in kids’ lives now. At the Watkins, we use the journal in a program for third-graders titled “Maggie Herrington’s Lawrence.” Kids read excerpts from the journal in class, then a museum staff member visits the school or they take a field trip to the Watkins for a more hands-on exploration of Maggie’s life with artifacts and a map from the 19th century.
Last year, half the third grades in Lawrence learned about Maggie and 1860s Lawrence through this activity. There’s no cost to teachers and it addresses multiple Common Core standards. Plus, kids love examining these artifacts and learning about local history with their own hands.
In the near future, we plan to bring Maggie’s Lawrence into the 2nd floor gallery with permanent interactive components including hands-on artifacts and smell jars (have you ever wondered what Lawrence smelled like in 1867?). Once installed, the interactives will be available to anyone visiting the museum, on their own or in a group.
-Abby Magariel, Education Coordinator