Fears Scout museum may pack up for good
THE volunteers who run Oxford’s Museum of Scouting have been told there is no longer a place for them at the oldest scout camp in the world.
The John Kirby Museum of Scouting has had a home at Youlbury Scout Camp in Boars Hill, since 1994.
But curator Peter Slatter, 80, has been told he and his team must close the museum within the year to make way for new accommodation blocks at the site, which dates back to 1913.
And if no other home can be found for the museum, it will be packed into boxes and put in storage. Mr Slatter helped John Kirby set the museum up at Youlbury in 1994 and has been managing it since the founder’s death three years ago. It attracts more than 1,000 people a year.
He said: “It’s very sad news indeed. But it seems they don’t want us any more.
“We had heard rumours that our time was up, and then I was called to a meeting with the Scout County Commissioner and told we need to be out of the building by this time next year.
“We are shocked and very sad about this, but apparently there’s nothing we can do.”
The museum guides its visitors through the Scouting movement, from the birth of its founder Lord Baden-Powell, to modern times.
Run entirely on donations, it is open to everyone and visitors can see more than 3,000 badges, try on old uniforms, blow a kudu horn, and even try their hand at semaphore.
But after receiving planning approval in 2010, Youlbury’s owner, the Scout Association, now plans extensive modernisation of the site.
Construction of a new accommodation lodge, sleeping 36 people in ensuite accommodation, will begin later this year, with more new buildings to follow. The museum building is set to be demolished.
Mr Slatter continued: “When the owners of the camp first mooted their plans to build a whole load of new accommodation blocks a few years back, we suggested all we needed was a half of one of the new buildings.
“But it seems that is now out of the question.”
He added: “I was told by a representative of the Scouting HQ that Scouting is a ‘forward-looking’ organisation and not about looking back.
“But that’s stupid. Scouting is an organisation with a 100-year history, and you can’t just throw that out.”
A Scout Association spokesman said: “Discussions have only just started, and there needs to be a wide range of stakeholders’ views to be considered before any final decision is made by the county as to the long term future of its heritage collection.
“This is a county executive decision and we will support them as best we can to ensure their heritage is protected and available to members’ benefit in the years ahead.”
County Commissioner Tarquin May said: “We are still in negotiations with the Scout Association about the future of the museum and there are options open to us, including the possibility that we may be able to display a small part of the museum at the camp.”
Organisations and museums who may be able to offer the Scout Museum a new home are asked to contact Mr Slatter on 01865 769003.
- The Scout movement began in the summer of 1907 when retired army officer Robert Baden-Powell took 20 boys on a camping expedition to Brownsea Island in Dorset.
- A year later Baden-Powell converted a previously-published military survival guide into a handbook called Scouting for Boys.
- The concept began to spread and training camps appeared in London and Yorkshire.
- Before long, units began to materialise throughout the British Empire, from Gibraltar to New Zealand.
- Baden-Powell’s sister became aware of interest from girls, and the Girl Guides was founded in 1910.
- The first World Scout Conference was held in 1922 with 31 nations represented.
- Today Scouts represent the largest voluntary youth organisation in the world, with 41 million members registered worldwide.