National Scouting Museum

The National Scouting Museum reopened in Irving, Texas, after its move from Murray, Kentucky. The new 50,000-square-foot facility opened its doors to the public for the first time in October 2002.

Lord Robert Baden-Powell sat comfortably on a fallen tree. He was clearly deep in thought, so the small group of boys approached him slowly. He turned and greeted them warmly. The boys smiled and, following his directions, took a seat near the feet of Scouting's founder. As he briefly spoke to the boys of Scouting's history and values, the immense screen behind him sprang to life with the images and sounds of a multimedia presentation.

This was the first of many interactive learning experiences for this group. The boys would soon move on to experiences such as racing pinewood derby cars, sitting around a glowing campfire listening to stories, tying knots, and identifying animal tracks—all while learning values that will help them make better decisions as adults. However, the unique element to these events is that the boys experienced it all in a single day at the National Scouting Museum in Irving, Texas.

The museum, which opened next door to the BSA's national office in the fall of 2002, is home to more than half a million artifacts. But the museum offers much more than oil paintings, uniforms, patches, and pins.

"The museum, like Scouting, is something you experience," museum director Susan Hardin explains. "The exhibits and artifacts collectively paint a bigger picture for visitors, allowing them to see how the Scouting program is more than just camping and crafts; it is an experience that has shaped the lives of more than 110 million people."

This experience is depicted through the 50,000-square-foot facility's virtual-reality adventures, animatronic figures such as Baden-Powell, and hands-on learning opportunities staged in elaborate natural backdrops.

The National Scouting Museum is also home to the Youth and Family Research Center. Established in support of our mission and vision of serving youth and families in every community in America, the center will conduct primary and secondary research projects to support the understanding and promotion of healthy youth and family development. It will also allow for a comprehensive, scholarly study of the entire Scouting movement and its role in social issues affecting youth.

The goals and objectives of the research center will focus on
  • Scouting program outcomes for youth and families.
  • Youth attitudes toward, awareness of, and impact on social issues.
  • Trends in social systems and environmental surroundings.
  • Analysis of issues and census data to improve targeted service.
  • Demographic and lifestyle analysis of youth, families, and extended families.
  • National benchmarks for youth service, programs, and institutional effectiveness.

The Museum's Development

The museum opened in North Brunswick, New Jersey, in 1959 and began collecting, organizing, preserving, and displaying Scouting's history. In 1986, the museum moved to the campus of Murray State University in Kentucky, where it remained until 2001. The new facility offers twice as much exhibit space and is expected to draw thousands of people each year.

"We wanted the National Scouting Museum to be something very special," says Anderson Chandler, National Executive Board member and chair of the Properties Committee, "and it is. It is an educational experience that reaches beyond cases and collections to show us the glory of our past, and the bright promise of our future. This is not a tribute to days gone by, but a bold, exciting testament to the volunteers, members, and supporters who have built an entire movement around the Scout Oath and the 12 points of the Scout Law."

Young visitors learn about adventure and Venturing in the National Scouting Museum's Venturing Cave.

"Whether you are a Scout or not, there is something for everyone to enjoy at the National Scouting Museum," Hardin says. "Whether you're a history buff or an art lover, or you just want to experience some of the fun, hands-on activities synonymous with the Scouting program, you will be impressed by all the museum has to offer."

The museum features 13 uniquely themed exhibit areas. Each area focuses on a different aspect of the Scouting program from Cub Scouting to Boy Scouting to Venturing, leading visitors through the history and heritage of the Scouting movement from its service-oriented beginnings in England through its arrival and growth in the United States.

In addition to its extensive historical collection, the museum is home to the Norman Rockwell Art Gallery, housing the largest collection of Scouting-related Rockwell paintings in the world. The collection includes 47 oil paintings by the artist, including his first Scout painting, created in 1918 as an illustrator for Boys' Life magazine, and his final Scout painting, completed in 1976. Each season, the art gallery will showcase works by other artists such as Joseph Csatari, Remington Schuyler, and Walt Disney, who have helped shape the perception of Scouting through their artistry.

The museum features educational programs and activities specifically for Scouts and members of other youth organizations. A variety of events are planned during the next two years, including pinewood derby days; canned food drives; merit badge days when Scouts can come to the museum, meet with merit badge counselors, and fulfill badge requirements; and sleeporees—overnight stays in the museum.

Funding a Great Resource

Pinewood derby cars and a track get a workout. They are one of the many hands-on exhibits at the museum.

None of these activities or exhibits would be available without the support of individuals and organizations who share the beliefs and values of Scouting. The museum fund-raising campaign began in February 2002 with a goal of $14 million.

"Throughout the campaign, every effort was made to obtain support from companies and individuals at a national level so as not to impede the financial goals of local councils throughout the country," explains Norman Augustine, chair of the museum campaign. "Thus, we focused on requesting gifts from three primary groups: members of the National Executive Board and National Advisory Council, national foundations, and nationwide vendors. Through the support of these groups and the collaborative effort of numerous divisions of the national office, the campaign reached its goal by year's end."

The museum is one of Scouting's most significant and important resources—one that will be increasingly important in years to come as the organization continues to tell its story of strong values and leadership to new generations of young people. Through this resource, new generations of youth will have the opportunity to hear and heed the advice given by Baden-Powell to every visitor: "Remember the Scout Oath and the promise you made even when you are grown."