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National Scouting Museum keeps BSA history alive, one artifact at a time

They store and catalog more than a half-million precious pieces of Scouting history. They handle 200 requests a month from individuals wanting their Boy Scout artifacts identified. They even consult on Scouting props and costumes for movies and TV shows like HBO’s Boardwalk Empire.

Yes, the life of a National Scouting Museum employee seems as glamorous as it does hectic.

The museum sits right across the street from the BSA’s headquarters in Irving, Texas. Its hometown newspaper, The Dallas Morning News, this morning published a positive piece on how the museum preserves and showcases the 103-year history of the Boy Scouts of America.

“One hundred years from now, somebody will want to know what happened today,” museum director Janice Babineaux told the newspaper.

It’s her job to oversee a collection that includes the first Eagle Scout medal ever awarded, 47 original Norman Rockwell paintings used as Boys’ Life magazine covers, every Scouting uniform design in history and more than 600,000 other items.

The museum welcomes visitors, takes its exhibits on the road and even fields some less-common requests from the entertainment world.

Into that category you can put the time Archivist Steven Price heard from the folks behind HBO’s Prohibition-era drama Boardwalk Empire.

“There’s one episode where [HBO] wanted to outfit 70 Boy Scouts from the ’20s, so we just basically took photographs of our early uniforms,” he told the newspaper. “They had their show fashion designer recreate those uniforms.”

The episode, set in 1923, aired in the show’s third season. Go here for a screenshot from a scene where one of the characters addresses Boy Scouts at a conference. The uniforms, at least from what we can see of them, look pretty good.

Keeping BSA history alive through whatever means necessary? That’s just another day in the life of a National Scouting Museum employee. Read the Dallas Morning News story here and go to the museum’s official website to plan a visit on your next trip to North Texas.

3 Comments on National Scouting Museum keeps BSA history alive, one artifact at a time

  1. Some of the comments in the “Dallas Morning News” article are outrageous. The National Scouting Museum is not open to researchers who are not “approved.” Scouters are not allowed to see the museum’s finding aids so that they can even determine what is in the museum’s collection. From my experience over the past twenty years, I don’t think that the museum’s staff is even familiar enough with Scouting history to know what to collect! I would like to see the list of items from the museum that have been sent to museums in “local councils.” Please get it for me, as my request for it would not be “approved.”

  2. The HBO special is great publicity, and it sure was nice of the producers to recreate authentic looking uniforms. But, the first thing I thought was that scouts and leaders in 1923 would not have been caught dead wearing a hat indoors!

  3. The “scouter” on the left at the table, facing right, looks like a real scouter friend of mine…I wonder…

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