The Boy Scouts of America announced that it will move the National Scouting Museum to Philmont Scout Ranch in northeastern New Mexico from its current home in Irving, Texas.
The relocation will take place over the next 18 months, with the museum scheduled to open at Philmont in 2018.
Thanks to the support of some generous donors, Philmont will construct an expansion to the already-planned Philmont Museum and Seton Memorial Library and Education Center. At its new site, the museum will continue to preserve the rich, 106-year history of the BSA.
Like all museums, the National Scouting Museum showcases to the public only a fraction of its vast treasures. It is home to 600,000 artifacts, including 48 original Rockwell paintings, that tell the story of the Scouting movement.
The museum’s move to Philmont — where 32,000 people visit every year — will introduce even more people to Scouting’s story and introduce unique opportunities to showcase parts of the collection, including the Rockwell paintings, throughout the country.
Rick Bragga, the volunteer chairman of the National Scouting Museum Committee, is passionate about the mission of the museum: preserving physical and digital archives, conducting research, and presenting and sharing BSA history with local councils.
He says the committee considered several possibilities and decided that the Philmont location “accelerates what the museum is trying to accomplish.”
Sharing more of the BSA’s history
BSA Chief Scout Executive Mike Surbaugh says that as a Scout he visited the National Scouting Museum when it was located at its first home, in New Jersey. So he knows how the museum can make quite an impression on young people.
It did just that in its Texas location, but the facility “has struggled with attendance,” Surbaugh says.
“Transiting our memorabilia to Philmont, and creating opportunities at our other high-adventure bases for display, will enable tens of thousands of Scouts each year to have the experience I did as a young Scout,” he says.
The National Scouting Museum’s Philmont home will be the primary place to see Scouting memorabilia, but the BSA’s expansive collection of Scouting collectibles will be spread far and wide. Additionally, this transition allows the BSA to reinforce its commitment to making many parts of the collection and archives digitally accessible.
It allows the BSA to share some items for showcase at local councils and at the three other national high-adventure bases: the Summit Bechtel Reserve in West Virginia, the Florida Sea Base, and the Northern Tier National High Adventure Bases in Minnesota and Canada. In other words, this new chapter for the National Scouting Museum will mean more Scouts get a glimpse into the BSA’s powerful past.
“Our history and legacy make a tremendous impact on Scouts of all ages,” Surbaugh says.
The National Scouting Museum’s fourth home
The National Scouting Museum began its existence as the Johnston Historical Museum. The museum, which opened in New Brunswick, N.J., in 1959, even included a study restored to look like the one belonging to Scouting founder Robert Baden-Powell.
In 1986, the museum moved to Murray State University in western Kentucky. Among its attractions were the Amazing Adventure indoor maze and the Scouting Theater.
In 2002, the National Scouting Museum was relocated to Irving, Texas, next door to the BSA’s national headquarters.
The museum’s next chapter will begin in 2018 when it will call Philmont Scout Ranch home.
Mark Anderson, director of program at Philmont, says the ranch is “humbled and excited” about this opportunity.
The location, he says, will allow Scouts and Scouters “to connect with our historical treasures and use them to enhance the Scouting influence for the future. Our history will then help to shape our future.”
The new facility will feature exhibits, a library, a gift shop, work rooms, meeting space and more.
Philmont’s place in Scouting history
Ever since Waite and Genevieve Phillips gave Philmont to the Boy Scouts in 1938, more than a million Scouts and adults have taken part in backcountry adventures there.
In 1950, Philmont opened its first museum at Rancho Rayado. The Kit Carson Museum featured exhibits on Native American culture, natural history fossils and history of the Southwest, the Santa Fe Trail and Kit Carson.
With the gift of Ernest Thompson Seton’s Native American collection in 1965, a new facility was completed in 1967. Exhibits have expanded through the years since the gift of Seton’s collection.
The fascinating Villa Philmonte was added as a special historical museum in 1980 to share the Phillips story.
The National Scouting Museum will join the Philmont Museum and Seton Memorial Library to create a unique, 13,000-square-foot educational center unlike any other place in Scouting.
It will be located halfway between the Philmont Training Center and Camping Headquarters and remain open throughout the year. The location benefits people taking treks, day visitors, and Scouters and their families participating in programs at the Philmont Training Center.