By Joe Severino, RealWV
The world’s largest collection of Scouting memorabilia has opened in Charleston, as nearly 20,000 people flocked to Southern West Virginia in the last two weeks to attend the 2023 National Jamboree at Summit Bechtel Reserve.
More than 200,000 Scouting artifacts line the walls and floors of the nearly 7,000-square foot facility on Washington Street East near the State Capitol. The World Scouting Museum opened earlier this month after moving 2,000 miles from its original home in Las Vegas. Dr. Robert Lynn Horne, the museum’s executive director, opted to move the facility to West Virginia partly due to declining Scouting participation out West, but also due to Charleston’s proximity to Summit Bechtel Reserve in Fayette and Raleigh counties.
Museum curator Alex Bennett, who grew up in Hurricane, said it was a frenzy preparing the facility in time for the National Jamboree. Five trucks hauled the Nevada museum’s contents late last year, arriving the day after Thanksgiving, and they finally unloaded the trucks by Christmas.
The museum opened 10 days before the National Jamboree kicked off.
“There’s still work to be done,” said Bennett; but he was prideful about the contents of the museum: “It’s an amazing collection.”
The World Scouting Museum is home to Boy Scout and Girl Scout memorabilia from more than 150 countries. Patches, uniforms, belt buckles, photos, interactive exhibits, and more tell the story of Scouting’s 113-year history, which has now permanently intertwined with the Mountain State.
Summit Bechtel Reserve has hosted the last two National Jamborees, and will continue to host the event every four years, as it has been designated by the Boy Scouts of America as its permanent home. West Virginia also hosted the 2019 World Jamboree, with more than 40,000 Scouts from 152 countries coming to the event.
Bennett said the museum’s board of trustees were very excited to be near the action in West Virginia.
For the first time, female Scouts in the Boy Scouts of America will be allowed to attend the National Jamboree. While these Scouts are not Girl Scouts, which is a separate organization, Bennett said he wants to expand the museum’s Girl Scout collection in the coming years. About 20% of attendees at this year’s National Jamboree were expected to be girls, according to organizers. Women have long played roles through the history of the Boy Scouts, and they
will continue to be a part of its future as girls can access the same resources and achieve the rank of Eagle Scout.
Most of the museum’s visitors so far have been adults, collectors and local Scout groups, Bennett said, but he was enthusiastic after meeting one Scout troop that stopped in on their way to the National Jamboree.
“It was amazing to be able to walk them through the museum, to see how excited that they were,” he said. “That was one of my biggest fears, that kids weren’t going to enjoy it.” Bennett said the work will continue in the coming months to open a library in the museum, as well as add more interactive features and educational tools. He said to call 681-265-1382 or email WSMWVCurator@gmail.com to arrange for a tour. The museum is open weekdays from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.