As a member of Girl Guides, Scout’s sister organization, I was fascinated to find that Kingston had a museum dedicated to preserving its history. Scouting has a long history, not just in Canada but across the world, and I was particularly interested to see what Kingston’s history with it was. Did you know that Kingston Scouts have existed for over 100 years, nearly as long as the organization itself? This museum is only one of a few museums in Canada dedicated to Scouting history. It is an interesting visit for those who were in Scouting or Guiding, but equally interesting for those who weren’t! Organizations like these are so valuable to anyone interested in local history since they have been so directly involved in the community for many years.
This museum has existed since 2008, founded by a group of passionate volunteers dedicated to preserving the history of Kingston’s Scouts. If you don’t know the history of Scouting, let me recap it for you: in 1907, Robert Baden-Powell was inspired by the idea of training young boys in survival skills- not military skills, but those of explorers. He published “Scouting For Boys”, which became the foundation of both Scouts and Girl Guides. Today, Scouts across the world read this book and choose to follow its principles. Scouts are particularly relevant to local history thanks to their devotion to the community: Scouts are often chosen to represent their country on a global scale, and Kingston Scouts are no exception. After World War II, the annual Scouting meeting, called a Jamboree, was once again able to be held for Scouts around the world- this time in France. Scouts from across Canada gathered to travel together- but how would they get to France? Well, the Canadian government stepped in to provide the Scouts with a unique form of transport- the HMCS Warrior, the Canadian Navy’s only aircraft carrier! It is events like this that show the long history of Scouting in the community.
If you’ve ever been a Scout, or seen one, you know that badges are a large part of the program! Scouts often take great pride in earning their badges, and there has historically been a wide array of badges, meaning people who earned badges 50 years ago may have had a completely different set than Scouts earn now. The Scout Museum has a collection of various historical badges: I found it fascinating to see what skills have been seen as essential to young children throughout time! Badges are also given for events, like ‘Jamborees’ , which are worldwide Scouting events that occur once every four years, so there is such a wide assortment of different badges that Scouts can have, its almost impossible to have seen them all.
The main way to recognize a Scout in the wild is by their distinct uniform- but how can it be distinct when it changes so often? This museum shows the wide array of Scout uniforms, and how they have differed by age. I found that looking at all the uniforms back to back shows patterns in the evolution of the uniform- from the pseudo-military uniform based on the uniform worn by the founder in the British Army to a modern, outdoorsy style of outfit more suited to today’s fabrics (these ones can go through the washing machine!). Those who have been in Scouting may recognize their own old uniform.
The Kingston Scout Museum is currently closed, but their website has a fantastic virtual tour, as well as many pictures and descriptions of key moments in Kingston’s Scouting history. I highly encourage anyone interested in Scouting history or even local history to check out their website, at http://www.scoutmuseumkingston.ca/.