Seven Books Every Girl Scout Historian Should Have

7. Exhibits in Archives and Special Collections Libraries,
Jessica Lacher-Feldman (2013)

Intended for repositories with far larger budgets than most Girl Scout archives, but the basic info on exhibit design will benefit any reader. Extensive illustrations and examples.

Expensive; look for used copies.  

6. The Lone Arranger: Succeeding in a Small Repository
Christina Zamon (2012)

Excellent go-to reference book. Provides clear instructions and succinct definitions for the amateur archivist. A standard work for “Intro to Archives” courses. Also expensive. Look for used copies.  

Bonus Points: Clever title

5. Nearby History: Exploring the Past Around You
David E. Kyvig and Myron A. Marty (2010)

The back cover says it all: “A comprehensive handbook for those interested in investigating the history of communities, families, local institutions, and cultural artifacts.”  Great tips on how to plug Girl Scouts into local history.

4. Saving Stuff: How to Care for and Preserve Your Collectibles, Heirlooms, and Other Prized Possessions
Don Williams (2005)

This 2005 book from the Smithsonian Institution can be difficult to locate, but it’s worth the effort. There are few things that the book does not cover. Need to preserve macaroni art? It’s in here. Also covers fundamentals of storage such as light and temperature.

3. Scouting Dolls Through the Years: Identification and Value Guide
Sydney Ann Sutton (2003)

Take the dolls chapter out of the Collector’s Guide and quadruple it in length and the result is this comprehensive guide. Extensive color photos make identification quick, and the book includes licensed dolls not necessarily available from the Girl Scout catalog. The book was published in 2003, so the estimated values are not realistic.

Bonus Points: Published in my home town, Paducah, KY

Covers 100 years of Girl Scouting in the Washington DC area. Also includes Girl Scout basics and GSUSA events and buildings in the capital city. More than just a pictorial history, the captions provide detailed information about programs, camps, and more.

Bonus Points: Yes, I wrote it.

1. Girl Scout Collector’s Guide, 3rd edition

This book is the primary reference work for Girl Scout historians, with detailed information about uniforms, badges, publications, and more. My copy is full of comments, notes, and post-it flags. Unfortunately, the most recent edition was published in 2005. There is no 3rd edition.

Did history stop in 2005? Hardly. What has happened since 2005? The Girl Scout Leadership Experience program, journeys, an entirely new series of badges, troop crests, and handbooks. Two CEOs, three national presidents, five conventions, and our 100th birthday. Realignment, anyone?  

A girl born when the most recent Guide was published would now be on the brink of bridging to the Ambassador level. But wait, there’s no mention of Ambassadors in the Guide because that level was only created in 2008. 

The Collector’s Guide never hit the best-seller lists, but its value to the movement should not be dismissed. A new volume could be subsidized, grant-funded, or perhaps live online.

Girl Scouts are supposed to use resources wisely. Hopefully these reference works will provide some guidance for the women (and men) tasked with preserving our past.

©2019 Ann Robertson

A Warehouse? On Winter Break?

I have the greatest troop of Senior and Ambassador Girl Scouts.

They are unfailingly kind, generous, smart, funny, and always willing to be guinea pigs in whatever crazy scheme I come up with.

Over the years we’ve rung in the New Year with movie marathons at our local camp, gone to DC Roller Girls matches, walked the length of the National Mall on the hottest day of the year, debated proper attire for vampires, and collected nearly 200 bras for victims of domestic violence.  They have gamely tried out possible activities for my patch programs about princesses, Barbies, and the Hunger Games.

Since I became chair of the Nation’s Capital Archives and History Committee in 2012, they have become Girl Scout historians, too. They have visited local sites with Girl Scout history ties, such as Peirce Mill and Rockwood Manor. They spent one meeting arranging a suitcase full of old teen uniforms in chronological order and critiquing the style and fabric. Last year, over winter break, a group dismantled, relocated, and reassembled the Committee’s storage area when the council headquarters received new carpet.

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Yesterday, I took a carload of girls to the warehouse in Northeast Washington, DC, where the majority of our collection is housed. Our two storage units are packed to the brim, so I limited the trip to four girls. Would you believe I had a waiting list? Let’s review: I had teenage girls on winter break clamoring to go to a warehouse. A warehouse!

I didn't know we had old GS bathing suits!
I didn’t know we had old GS bathing suits!

We spent about two hours at the warehouse, carrying out several missions. I had old Leader magazines to return and needed to borrow some Rockwood materials for research. We also had a request requiring some old camp uniforms and a roundup hat, so we located those and talked about what roundups were.

Everyone loves old hats!
Everyone loves old hats!


Our main goal was to locate items for an upcoming display about cookie patches and prizes over the years. The girls are working on the old Museum Discovery Interest Project, and the display will satisfy some of those requirements. But there’s more to the cookie display project than just earning a badge.


The Museum Discovery Interest Project
The Museum Discovery Interest Project

Next year Nation’s Capital will open a dedicated history program center at a former field office in Frederick, Maryland. I am beyond excited by the prospect of permanent displays and being able to better share our collection with our members and the community.

We’re still working out what types of programs will be offered in Frederick, but I hope there will be a mix of “for girls” and “by girls” on the menu.  I visited the First Headquarters in Savannah last summer and was so impressed that teens from the Historic Georgia Council work at the museum and lead most of the programs.  pa_pinI would love to implement a similar model for Nation’s Capital, perhaps even creating a History Program Aide specialty.

Working with my own troop has confirmed that, with proper instruction, girls can handle artifacts appropriately and responsibly. I try to reinforce with my girls that there is a huge, wonderful world of Girl Scouting out there beyond our troop. They enjoy seeing how they fit into our timeline, discovering what has changed and what has stayed the same.

Above all, they prove that Girl Scouts want to learn more about Girl Scout history.  I can’t wait to give them and other troops that opportunity.

Carpet Diem, Part 2

Recap: We had to empty out the archives storage space while the Council office gets new carpet, so we “seized the day” to reorganize our space.

Today my husband installed the new Elfa shelving that he configured for the archives “pod” space at the Council headquarters.

He added high, ventilated shelves to hold our assorted Hollinger Metal Edge boxes.

Elfa shelves can be easily adjusted for height.
Elfa shelves can be easily adjusted for height.

Mark is an expert with Elfa shelving. (Really. You should see our closets at home!)
Mark is an expert with Elfa shelving.

Mark also adjusted the existing shelves to the same height as the plastic storage tubs (66 qt Sterilite ClearView Latch from Target) I used to group similar objects and boxes.

We will add two more shelves later.
We will add two more shelves later.

With standardized tubs, we can fit more items in and hopefully locate them more easily.
With standardized tubs, we can fit more items in and hopefully locate them more easily.

We kept one existing bookshelf and added a built-in hanging rod for uniforms.

We moved most of the items back into the pod, but others will have to wait until we have additional shelves for the baker’s rack.  They are stored at the council equipment site in Virginia.

Looks like we need new labels for some of our boxes.
Looks like we need new labels for some of our boxes.

There also is an additional high shelf where we will put empty boxes and other supplies.

We have a second hanging rod that we can use if needed, but we would need to adjust the shelf height first.
We have a second hanging rod that we can use if needed, but we would need to adjust the shelf height first.

With the current Elfa sale at the Container Store, the cost of the new shelving was just under $200.

Thanks Mark! You’re the best!

Carpet Diem, part 1

Plans for the new Nation’s Capital Resource Center have been delayed yet again, so instead of packing for our future storage site it looks like we will stay in our storage “pod” at the council headquarters for most of 2014.

However, plans to re-carpet the headquarters — plus a good post-holiday sale on Elfa shelving at the Container Store — have given us an opportunity to rethink and maximize the space we have now.

Currently we have two unmatched bookcases and a large metal “baker’s rack.”  The baker’s rack is good quality and very sturdy, but it is out of proportion with our mixed assortment of plastic storage bins and various Hollinger archival boxes.  Each shelf is stacked two or three boxes high and as many deep.  It is quite the adventure to excavate to the lower depths of the pod and I’ve always made sure to take a buddy in case I fall in!

Step 1: My architect husband measured the pod.  He had never visited the council office before and was astonished to discover that our storage room has only three walls–and one of those is made of curved glass blocks.

Step 2: Completely empty out the archives pod and desk area. Luckily, all this is happened during Winter Break. Four girls from my troop spent a day at Council and managed to clear the pod entirely. They even took apart and reassembled the baker’s rack in the temporary storage area. What a great team-building exercise!

The girls disassembled the pod shelving.
The girls disassembled the pod shelving.

They reassembled the shelving in the storage area.
They reassembled the shelving in the storage area.

Step 3: Evaluate the materials and determine how to group boxes as well as what furniture configurations will work and what won’t.

A very small sample of our storage needs.
A very small sample of our storage needs.

Next…..see the results!