Discovering Brownie Archives…

Last weekend I got an e-mail from one of the leaders who does Guides in the same location as our Ranger/Senior Section unit to say that the church had discovered woodworm in the Guides cupboard, and could we please clear it out. One cupboard we didn’t even realise belonged to us. There was no Ranger meeting that week, so I went down to meet her and one of the church elders to see what the deal was with no idea that we were about to discover a lot of junk plus a lot of archive treasures!

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IMG_4471Most of what we found was Brownie stuff, and it just happened that day I was wearing my ‘I was a Brownie’ t-shirt. I was squealing with excitement to find the two Brownie handbooks I’d been given when I joined Brownies to help me learn the Brownie story, promise, law and motto. I came into Brownies just as the new “Jeff Banks” uniform was introduced so I was sad I wouldn’t get to wear the brown dress I’d seen all the Brownies I looked up to wear, but this jumper that one of the other Guide leaders found after we managed to break open a Patrol box no one has a key for…

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We also found wooden boxes with lamps and morse code for Guides to practise signalling. Even an old telephone for when Brownies would practise how to make emergency calls. There were Brownie cut out dolls, old First Aid manuals, books with flags and pictures of Girlguiding uniforms from all over the world. We even found the very first Look Wider folder from the 90s! It was wonderful to find a scrapbook from one of the Brownie Packs logging their adventures from 1992-95 that actually featured one of our Guide leaders, and we had a giggle at seeing pictures of her on a Pack holiday. We found old annual reports and county registers – one reporting a girl I knew from high school gaining her Baden-Powell Award. IMG_4475

The most special thing we found was a certificate from The Guide Association, signed by Olave Baden-Powell from when a third Brownie Pack was opened at the hall in 1974. I’m guessing they don’t give certificates for the opening of new units any more, as we didn’t get one when we opened the Ranger unit in 2012.

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It seems such a shame that these things, which gave us so much excitement, and I’m sure would be fascinating to others who were part of Guiding when they were little too, just collect dust in cupboards. So we’re now thinking of investigating the possibility of setting up a temporary ‘museum’ for a weekend for the local area of all the archives we have from the different units. We are already aware that other units also have archives in church cupboards and under stages.

What happens with the archives in your area, and how do we preserve the history of Girlguiding for future generations to rediscover?

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5 thoughts on “Discovering Brownie Archives…

  1. I’m a Guiding archive nut (hence the website) and often end up collecting and preserving discarded items. Sometimes, the back of a cuboard is a ‘safe place’ as things don’t get thrown out – but as you’ve seen, there is more pleasure in the discovery, and the chance to introduce the girls to their own heritage. I’m sure the County Archivist will also be able to give you advice on caring for your finds.

  2. It’s great when these things come to light, isn’t it? We’re having a Brownie exhibition in the local museum for a week later this month (arranged by a Trefoil member who volunteers there), and that will be a good chance for everyone to get things out of their cupboards. There’s just not space to display it all the time… I just thought, one option with memorabilia is to donate it to a guiding property. I love staying in places where the corridors and bedrooms are full of pictures and artefacts, and you never know what you might find.

  3. I am trying so desperately to start a blog over here and would really appreciate it if you could come and have a look! Some tips would be brilliant too, you seem to be doing a fab job!

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