Located in the Midwest region of the United States, Kansas is the 15th biggest state in terms of area and 35th largest in terms of population, making it one of the most sparsely populated states. It covers an area of 82,278 square miles and has an estimated population of 2.9 million. Kansas is located in a central location of the United States, being equidistant from the east and west coasts, and was named after the Native American Kansa tribe that lived in the area before white European settlers arrived.
The first European settlements were formed in Kansas in 1812, but the state developed rapidly, especially after the Civil War. Kansas has borders with Nebraska, Missouri, Colorado, and Oklahoma. Nicknamed 'The Sunflower State' and 'The Wheat State', Kansas landscapes are mostly made up of prairies that have been turned into farmland. Agriculture has historically been a huge part of Kansas' economy and continues to be important in the modern era. The capital city of Kansas is Topeka, but the state's biggest city is Wichita. The largest metropolitan area in Kansas is the Kansas City metro. Here are some additional details and statistics for the largest cities in Kansas. CDC information for travelers. Hours/availability may have changed.
5 of the Largest Cities in Kansas
- Wichita, Photo: SeanPavonePhoto/stock.adobe.com
- Overland Park, Photo: Alextype/stock.adobe.com
- Kansas City, Photo: Aleksandra/stock.adobe.com
- Olathe, Photo: avad994me/stock.adobe.com
- Topeka, Photo: Christopher Boswell/stock.adobe.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of Joe Montiel - Fotolia.com
Attraction Spotlight: Spencer Museum of Art
The Spencer Museum of Art is located at the University of Kansas in Lawrence. The permanent collection includes over 45,000 works of art and objects of cultural significance, making the museum the most comprehensive in the state of Kansas. The collection at the museum began with a donation of over 7,500 works to the University of Kansas by Sallie Casey Thayer to encourage the study of the arts in the American Midwest.
Ms. Taylor’s collection was an eclectic mix of paintings, sculpture and decorative arts, mostly from Europe and Asia. Significant areas of focus include East Asian art, 20th century Chinese painting and Japanese Edo period prints and paintings. In 2007, the collection expanded significantly when the art museum acquired over 8,500 ethnographic objects from the University of Kansas Museum of Anthropology, mostly a collection of Native American objects.
Highlights of the collection include Japanese color woodblock prints, and ink and brush paintings and hanging scrolls. Asian art in the collection dates from the Neolithic era through the 21st century. The Native American Collection is extensive and includes over 3,000 objects from the 1895 collection of the University’s naturalist, Lewis Lindsay Dyche, to contemporary works by Native artist Chris Pappan. Items in the American collection include landscape painting by Georgia O’Keeffe and Winslow Homer as well as regional Kansas City artists. The contemporary collection is strong in sculpture and moving image media, with significant holdings of Kansas-based artists, such as Wendell Castle and Ann Hamilton. A collection of over 90 Haitian paintings was acquired in 1970 as well as the collection of art critic Gene Swenson, which focuses on 1960’s New York. 17 works donated by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation in 1959 include Renaissance panel paintings and other European works of significance from the 19th and 20th centuries.
History: The museum was founded in 1928 at the University of Kansas’ Spooner Hall with the collection of Ms. Sallie Casey Thayer. By the 1960’s, the collection had outgrown the facility, requiring a building of its own. In 1976, Kansas City collector and arts patron, Mrs. Helen Foresman Spencer donated $4.6 million to the University for the construction of a new museum. The new building, a neo-classical design built with Indiana Limestone was designed by Robert E. Jenks, a 1962 graduate of Kansas University. It opened in 1978 and houses Ms. Spencer’s collection as well as the University’s library of art and architecture and the Department of Art History. In 2015, the galleries closed to the public for Phase I of a major renovation project. The $8 million renovation transformed over 30,000 square feet of lobby and meeting space, classroom space, and storage for works on paper. Over 100,000 visitors view the collection at the Spencer Museum of Art annually. The museum is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums.
Ongoing Programs and Education: As the art museum of the University of Kansas, the collection provides university students with objects of study and research. Programs have expanded beyond the university and include K through 12 class visits, as well as a partnership with the Lawrence Public Schools System to bring arts education to the classroom. The 50-year partnership incorporates English learning, STEM education and local history alongside an arts-based curriculum. The new Goddard Study Center allows students and the public to closely examine works of art under the guidance of museum staff. During Walk-ins Welcome Fridays, no appointment is needed and visitors may drop in to view and of the works on paper from the museum’s collection.
An Artists in Residence Program brings diverse contemporary artists to campus to engage with the museum’s permanent collection as well as the students. 2016 artists included Park Jaeyoung, a Korean artist who uses science fiction themes, as well as Sahej Rahal, an Indian artist working found objects to create sculptures resembling terracotta clay.
Ongoing programs include Art Cart, an activity station where visitors of all ages can make crafts inspired by the current exhibits. Slow Art Sundays ask guests to contemplate just a single work of art each Sunday. Museum staff is on hand to answer questions.
Past and Future Exhibits: Future exhibitions include Big Botany: Conversations with the Plant World. The exhibit, which runs March through July 2018, will combine works from the museum’s collection along with loaned items to explore man’s relationship with the plant world. The exhibit will be accompanied by a detailed publication as well as a range of educational programming.
1301 Mississippi St Lawrence, KS 66045, Phone: 785-864-4710
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Attraction Spotlight: University of Kansas Natural History Museum
Located in Lawrence, Kansas on the campus of the University of Kansas, the University of Kansas Natural History Museum is a facility of the University of Kansas’ Biodiversity Institute, offering a variety of museum exhibits and public educational programming related to natural history and biological sciences. The University of Kansas’ natural history collection dates back to 1864, with the implementation of a stipulation within the university’s charter mandating a compiled cabinet dedicated to natural history research.
Early museum collections were curated under the leadership of director Francis Huntington Snow throughout the late 19th century, eventually growing large enough to merit the creation of a new permanent campus facility for the collection. Funds allocated by the Kansas State Legislature led to the construction of Dyche Hall in 1903, named for famed University of Kansas naturalist Lewis Lindsay Dyche and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. The museum was expanded in 1963 and again in 1993, adding a wing for ethanol-preserved collections, a laboratory, and additional office space. In 2003, the university’s Biodiversity Institute was created to oversee museum operations, research, and student programming related to natural history and biological sciences.
In addition to all museum programming and operations, 13 research divisions within the university are overseen by the Institute today, including archaeology, botany, herpetology, invertebrate zoology and paleontology, and ornithology. More than 10 million living and fossilized biological specimens are held by the museum, along with approximately 1.5 million archaeological artifacts pertaining to the natural and biological sciences and the cultural history of the Great Plains area. The facility is considered one of the leading international institutions for collection-based studies of evolution, paleobiology, and biodiversity modeling and is staffed by more than 100 research scientists and graduate students conducting ongoing research.
Four floors of exhibit space is offered within the Dyche Hall museum, offering more than 350 individual interactive exhibits for visitors to explore. The museum’s most notable exhibit is its 360-degree Panorama of North American Wildlife, which was displayed within the official Kansas Pavilion at the 1893 Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition and showcases mountings of North American mammals within their natural environments. The taxidermy of Comanche, Captain Myles Keogh’s famed horse from the 1876 Battle of Little Bighorn and the United States’ only animal survivor of the battle, is also displayed at the museum in an exhibit on the fourth floor.
A variety of interactive live animal, taxidermy, and fossil exhibits are showcased throughout the museum, featuring elements such as DNA samples, skeletons, animal tissue, and audiovisual material. Live animal exhibits include the museum’s Bee Tree live bee colony, installed in 2014, which offers views inside the hive courtesy of a live feed bee cam, and the Bugtown exhibit, which showcases insects such as the giant cave cockroach and the blue death-feigning beetle. Live snakes, including black, king, and rat snake specimens, are also on display in an exhibit on the museum’s sixth floor.
Fossils and taxidermy of native Great Plains species may be seen throughout the museum, ranging from Cretaceous Period species such as mosasaurus and xiphactinus to modern-day great horned owls, red foxes, and prairie falcons. A special exhibit also showcases 40 types of mammal skulls, encouraging visitors to learn about species identification from fossil characteristics. Several exhibits showcase microorganisms using interactive digital technology, including Exploring the Microbiome and The Faces of Parasites. Biodiversity and evolution principles are highlighted within several exhibits, including Explore Evolution, which presents current Institute research related to natural selection and DNA evolution. The fossil preservation process is also showcased at the Cleared and Stained exhibit.
The museum’s gift store, Fossilogics, offers nature and science-themed toys and souvenirs, including affordable options for families. Children must be accompanied by adults at all times within the gift store, including student groups on field trip tours. The Grub’s Diner restaurant within the Bugtown exhibit also offers light fare for museum visitors.
Ongoing Programs and Education
More than 40,000 students have participated in the museum’s educational programming over the past decade, including curriculum-incorporated field trip opportunities for elementary and secondary school students in grades K-12. School workshop programming is also offered, with a variety of programming related to the natural and biological sciences available for classroom rental during the fall and spring. Public educational programming is also offered throughout the year, including the Professor Dyche’s Biodiversity Emporium mobile museum, which appears at local events and public spaces, and the annual Explorers Dinner event, which serves as the museum’s main fundraising event. Drop-in Discovery Day events are also offered periodically for families, featuring hands-on activities and interaction with the museum’s specimen collections.
1345 Jayhawk Blvd, Lawrence, KS 66045, Phone: 785-864-4450
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Attraction Spotlight: Watkins Museum of History
Located in Lawrence, Kansas, the Watkins Museum of History serves as a museum facility for the Douglas County Historical Society’s collections and programming, offering a variety of exhibits related to the history of the Douglas County area. The Watkins Museum of History is housed within the former Watkins Land Mortgage and National Bank building, which was constructed in 1888 by a commission by area banker Jabez Bunting Watkins.
At the time of its opening, the Richardson Romanesque-style building was believed to be one of the finest architectural achievements in the United States west of the Mississippi River, constructed for the modern equivalent of $20 million. Throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the building housed offices for the J.B. Watkins Land Mortgage Company, which provided lending services for Midwestern farmers, and the Watkins National Bank. After Watkins’ death, his wife, Elizabeth, donated the building to the City of Lawrence in 1929, which operated it as the area’s City Hall from 1929 through 1970.
The Douglas County Historical Society was established in 1933 for the preservation of artifacts related to the social and cultural history of the Douglas County area. In the early 1970s, the Society acquired the Watkins building from the City of Lawrence and began renovations on the facility to transform it into a museum facility for Society historical collections. The building was reopened as the Elizabeth M. Watkins Museum in April of 1975. In 2012, the museum’s name was revised to the Watkins Museum of History to clarify its mission.
Permanent Exhibits and Collections
Today, the Watkins Museum is owned and operated by the Douglas County Historical Society, offering a variety of historical exhibits and public outreach programming. The Historical Society is overseen by a four-member board of directors, rotated yearly through an election held within the Society’s general membership. The museum serves as a center for civic engagement in the historical archival process, supporting local historical research with a focus on varying perspectives and struggles of area residents in the pursuit of freedom.
The museum’s core exhibit, the Lawrence Peace Center, which opened in 2013, is located on the second floor of the Watkins Building and focuses on the Civil War history and free-state struggles of the Kansas area. Panels chronicle the area’s history from the opening of the Kansas Territory in 1854 through the present day, focusing on personal stories of local residents and groups struggling for freedom. The painting “Blood-Stained Dawn” by Ernst Ulmer is showcased at the exhibit’s entrance, depicting William Quantrill’s August 1863 raid on the city of Lawrence, which devastated the city at the hands of 400 guerilla soldiers. A number of exhibits detail the city’s rebuilding and revitalization following the attack, including an exhibit of personal accounts of the attack and recovered furniture preserved from buildings that survived the raid. The area’s participation in the Civil War is also chronicled in a number of exhibits, including a display of preserved Civil War-era weapons and artifacts. Modern-day fights for freedom are also highlighted in the exhibit through displays of artifacts related to the 20th-century Civil Rights Movement and anti-Vietnam War protests.
In addition to the permanent anchor exhibit, a variety of temporary rotating exhibits are also showcased at the museum, focusing on topics related to the Douglas County area’s social and civic history. Past rotating exhibits have included Watkins: The Couple, the Building, the Legacy, which documented the business achievements and societal contributions of J.B. and Elizabeth Watkins, It Happened on Mass. Street, which detailed the development of Lawrence’s downtown area, and More than a Game: Basketball and Community Spirit, which showcased the role of basketball as a force for social change within the Douglas County area. Other exhibits have also focused on the early days of settlement in the Douglas County area and the city of Lawrence’s relationship with noted 20th-century poet Langston Hughes.
Ongoing Programs and Events
In addition to museum exhibits, the Watkins Museum of History maintains a Research Room on site, which serves as an educational and archival resource for the Douglas County community. Thousands of volumes, photographs, and historical documents are available for study by students and researchers by appointment, scheduled based on staff availability. All resources are available to the community for a nominal hourly fee, with support provided by museum research staff. Reproduction of photographic materials is available for some library holdings upon request for an additional fee. The Watkins building may be rented through the Historical Society for private special events, including weddings, family reunions, and business seminars. A number of local nonprofit organizations also use the Watkins Museum facility as a regular meeting place, including the Department of Kansas Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, the Daughters of the American Revolution, and the Lawrence Kansas Stamp Club.
1047 Massachusetts St, Lawrence, KS 66044, Phone: 785-841-4109
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