Preserving the Past, Enriching the Future
By Erin E. Ulerich
A home display is the best way to enjoyand sharethe memorabilia that represents the signposts along a Scout's journey from child to young man.
The Scouting years of a boy's life build memories that last a lifetime. The growing collection of pins, patches, badges, and projects represent signposts that mark a Scout's journey from child to young man.
The best way to enjoyand sharethese memories is to display them in your home. Start during your son's Scouting career. But if he is already grown (or if you have married into a Scouting family, as I did), it is never too late to display this collection of memories.
Honestly, I began the process of preserving and displaying my husband's memorabilia simply because I wanted fewer boxes in my closet. But what I learned through the process has been priceless.
My husband enjoyed going through his patches and describing the activities and camp-outs. Through his description of each milepost, I learned more about his childhood and more about the man he is today.
Preserving the past
Margaret Root of Jackson, Miss., has three generations of Scouting memories waiting to be enjoyed, memorabilia from her son, husband, and father-in-law.
"Scouting is a family tradition, and it made a big contribution to the character of all three men," she says. "For me, going through the process of preserving and displaying the symbols is a way of honoring that experience."
Another Scouting wife says it's especially important to display her husband's Eagle Scout Award certificate.
"This certificate represents the fact that he has been taught the values in the [BSA] Mission Statement and the Scout Oath," explains Rebecca Edwards of French Camp, Miss. "He's taken the Oath to help other people at all times, to keep himself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight. It makes a statement about who he is."
Many Scouts display their Scouting mementos because of the enjoyable memories they prompt.
"I've got memories of all different phases of my Scouting years displayed," explains Earl Walker, who was a Boy Scout in the early 1950's. "That's because I think those years were some of the most wonderful times in my life."
Enriching the future
Parents who make a special effort to display their son's achievements and milestones will send an important message to him.
"It shows that we are involved with our son's life and that we care about what he does," says Hazel Westheimer, whose son is in Troop 39 in Clinton, Miss.
Catherine Gatewood, whose sons are in the same troop, wants her boys to know that she and her husband see their achievements as well worth the time and effort the boys have spent on them.
"My sons have been in Scouting for more than half of their lives," she says. "I think that everything they've done in Scouting has helped in forming their character. And these memories sum up who they are."
Displays of Scouting memorabilia also serve a historical function, to help emphasize Scouting's legacy in communities and institutions.
"At First Baptist Church, we have a Scouting room with memorabilia displayed on the walls," says Mark Greene, former troop committee chairman and assistant Scoutmaster for Troop 8 in Jackson, Miss. The historic value of such Scouting memorabilia is important.
"We want boys to walk in here and get the idea that others have gone before themthat they are part of a great tradition," says Greene.
A shadow box is a good way to display memorabilia because so many items are three-dimensional. Hobby and craft stores sell ready-made shadow boxes, but you can also go to a custom framer for a special size, type of frame, and frame and mat board. A custom framer can also offer advice on arranging the items.
Start by picking the items to display. If you are selecting from someone else's memorabilia, such as an adult male, be sure to include anything that dates his Scouting era.
For example, in the late 1970's my husband earned Boy Scout skill awards, which were represented by gold metal belt loops. Since these skill awards are no longer earned by Boy Scouts, displaying them preserves a unique part of his era in Scouting.
Find out what your Scout enjoys or enjoyed most about Scouting. Ask him what achievements make him particularly proud.
My husband's collection seemed to include a patch from every camporee and other activity he attended, so we obviously couldn't use them all. Instead, he picked the patch he felt was the most meaningful to himfrom his first summer at Camp Tiak, in Wiggins, Miss.
Preparation and arrangement
An effective shadow box arrangement displays a Cub Scout or Boy Scout shirt bearing the pins and badges earned through the years. There is also room under the sleeves to place a merit badge or Order of the Arrow sash.
Once you've chosen the items, clean them thoroughly. Wash and dry shirts, but do not use fabric softener or starch.
Polish any medals or pins and affix items in their proper place on the uniforms.
If you need help on the placement of insignia, go to www.scoutstuff.org and click on "Patch Placement" to download a copy of the official BSA uniform inspection sheets.
Upon seeing my husband's completed display, I was reminded of the hours he invested in those achievements. My time in preserving and displaying them was minimal in comparison.
Having these items on our wall gives us the opportunity to pass the Scouting legacy on to our son. And, at last, I have one less box in my closet.
Freelance writer Erin E. Ulerich lives in Bolton, Miss.
Copyright © 2006 by the Boy Scouts of America. All rights thereunder reserved; anything appearing in Scouting magazine or on its Web site may not be reprinted either wholly or in part without written permission. Because of freedom given authors, opinions may not reflect official concurrence.