Scouting the Past, Inspiring the Future: Scouting Museum Development Project

“…there is one little thing that many an old Scout can do for us… …and that is to help in the collection we are making of historical records of the Movement. Good photographs of really interesting incidents connected with Scouting are especially in demand, but also records, anecdotes, etc.”

Robert Baden-Powell, April 1918

Over the last 100 years the Collection has grown to around 250,000 items, from uniform and badges to artwork and even the Baden-Powell’s caravan. The stories held within the Collection chart the launch and development of Scouting from world famous events such as the Brownsea Island Camp to the individual experiences of thousands of Scouts whose time in the Movement has helped them on life’s journey.  Unfortunately most of these items are currently inaccessible to visitors and are kept in the Collections Store.

The Scouts are about to embark on an incredible journey to develop the first official UK museum of Scouting

We need to raise funds to enable the delivery of:

  • A museum with permanent and temporary exhibition spaces to make our unique stories and objects available to the public for the first time.
  • A purpose built Heritage Collection Store which will ensure the long term preservation of the Collection and ensure its future accessibility.
  • A heritage offer which creates links between the Museum and its setting in Gilwell’s historic Scouting landscape.
  • New opportunities for building our audiences through a learning and engagement programme which reaches out to new and existing users and is responsive to their needs.
  • A new heritage volunteer programme which supports participants in developing new skills and knowledge and enables the delivery of a high quality heritage offer.

We believe our Scouting Heritage is rich in amazing stories which have the potential to inspire our visitors with our values and the impact Scouting has had on both individuals and society.

What will Scouting the Past, Inspiring the Future involve?

The Location:

The project will be based at Gilwell Park and focused on the Camp Square area. This location has been specifically chosen because of its historic significance and need for redevelopment.


When Scouts first arrived at Gilwell Park in 1919 the world was recovering from the cataclysmic impact of the First World War. Robert Baden-Powell was keen to emphasise the worldwide friendship that Scouting could bring, and innovations such as the first World Scout Jamboree in 1920 put this theory into practice. Gilwell Park followed this ethos by welcoming Scouts from around the world.

Camp Square became the heart of Gilwell providing a location for Scouts from different groups to gather, socialise and make connections with others from around the world. Over the years Camp Square has changed and developed with innovations coming and going as need and fashion dictated. It has at times had a country dancing board, a hospital, a Rover Scout Den and an international flag pole from which flew the national flags of Scouts visiting the Park and demonstrating Scouting’s global reach.

In more recent years the Square has suffered from neglect as investment has focused on other areas of Gilwell, it is tired and not fit for purpose but it also offers fantastic potential.

Our aspiration:

Scouting the Past will see Camp Square reinstated as the heart of Gilwell Park creating a space where groups can meet and socialise and make connections not only with each other but with the millions of Scouts who have gone before them. Through the museum they will explore Scouting’s fascinating historical and evolving story.

Why do we need act now?

Over the last five years The Scout Heritage Service has been proactive in using Scouting’s heritage to bring the story of the Movement to a wider audience. This wide ranging activity has included

  • Partnerships with other museums to display loaned material including Baden-Powell’s Camp Blanket and the original Scouting for Boys manuscript.
  • Commemorative activity linked to major First World War anniversaries including the outbreak, Jutland100 and Somme100.
  • Advising the award winning BBC drama Call the Midwife.
  • Creating a health and wellbeing offer supporting local people living with dementia and their families.
  • Working with ArtUK to digitise the sculpture collection and make it digitally accessible.
  • Working with a group of local young carers to create animations inspired by the heritage Collection.
  • Gaining Heritage Lottery Fund support to run a programme for school children using items within the heritage collection which relate to Scouting’s support for refugees and displaced people.

These activities have all demonstrated our ability to engage a wide range of users in Scouting’s story. However further activity is limited by our poor facilities for storing and displaying the Collection.

Extensive audience research has shown there is a real demand for this project. Scouts are proud of their heritage and want to be inspired by the remarkable story of their Movement and its Founder. Scouting is so ingrained in society that even those who have never been members feel an affinity with its values and achievements.

Scouting’s heritage is at risk, over the last 100 years it has grown to over 250,000 items and the current Collection stores are not fit for purpose. The stores are full and the long term preservation of the unique and fascinating items held within the Collection is being compromised by inappropriate storage. The Collection will to grow as Scouting’s story continually evolves and develops. Therefore it is important that we take action now to future proof and safeguard this remarkable and significant asset.