In the summer of 2012, the museum celebrated the centennial of Girl Scouts of the USA with programming, blog posts, and more. Today, associate curator Tim Winkle shares the story of one of the museum's early Girl Scouts-related artifacts.
In planning and selecting objects for Girl Scouts 1912-2012, our display marking the 100th anniversary of Girl Scouts of the USA, I came across an unassuming little black book, tucked in the other scouting material collected by curators over the years. There was no catalog number and no record of it in the files, but there it was—an album filled with a wonderful collection of photographs from an early Girl Scout summer camp. Notes and clues in the album helped answer some questions—the girls were from a town called Peru, the camp was called Yacahula (probably in upstate New York) and it all dates to August of 1919, just seven years after Girl Scouts was first founded.
With camping at the heart of the Girl Scout experience, I wanted to make it a part of the exhibit, but there was a problem. Photographs and paper objects are light sensitive and need to be carefully displayed. Even relatively short exposure to light can damage them, most often through fading or discoloration.
The solution was fairly simple. Once in the case, the album was opened to one set of photographs and, every four months, the exhibit team opened the case and turned the page to a new set of images. While protecting the object for the future, this does mean that the majority of photographs will never be seen in the course of the display.
Before the album went into the exhibit, Hugh Talman, one of our talented Smithsonian photographers, worked to produce a very high resolution digital image of every page in the album. As a result, for the first time, we can share each and every image from this collection of long-ago summer memories. The album will continue to be on display through 2013, as the Girl Scouts begin a new century.
Tim Winkle is an associate curator with the Division of Home and Community Life at the National Museum of American History. He has also blogged about collecting 100 years of Girl Scout history. The museum also offers a guide to Girl Scout badges using museum resources (PDF) as well as a visiting guide for grades K-5 (PDF) and grades 6-12 (PDF).