I'd like to thank Alan Shrives for the use of pictures of some of his collection - I'm grateful for his generosity in sharing the pictures, and enabling me to share them with you.
I'd also like to thank the owners of the website http://www.warton.idps.co.uk/ for their generous permission to use their images of Patrol badges, Elfowl for her images of County Badges, and Girl Guides of Canada-Guides du Canada for their images of vintage Brownie, Guide, Ranger and Extension Proficiency Badges.
And, of course, to the various people who have kindly shared information, research and resources, without which this website would not have been possible.
I am regularly adding to the existing pages, and adding and consolidating topics, in response to requests for information or common searches. There have been several recent additions, and research is ongoing into new topics, especially Senior Section history, which I am hoping to add more detail to soon. I've also been offering what help I can to researchers from Australia and from South Africa, to help them with some of the early shared history we have. UK Guiding programmes changed in July 2018, so updates have been made to reflect this, and more images have recently been added to the badges page.
If you have any suggestions of content you would like or topics to cover, please contact me and I will see what I can do . . .
Over the years, units and Patrols have been encouraged to start and keep logbooks of various sorts. These can include records of what was done at weekly meetings, photo albums from camps, songbooks, games books, interest badge scrapbooks and the like. They are a wonderful record of 'coalface Guiding' - what really happened in individual units, which may (or indeed may not!) resemble official policy or official records.
Anyone who has the slightest interest in Guiding history really should work to regularly keep a log or record of what their unit is doing now - ideally on paper, as computer records and video technologies soon become obsolete - it's not that many years since 3.5" disk was the thing, a decade ago CD-Rom was the thing - now most computers don't have a drive that can take them! If you haven't got a log yet - please start today! The most important thing to record in your log isn't necessarily the big things - the international camps and adventurous activities outings (though that's not to say these things should go totally unrecorded) - but what's really important to record is the ordinary stuff you take for granted! What do you do at an average meeting? What do you wear (full uniform every week or not, do you have a unit necker), what happens in any opening or closing ceremonies you have, what happens at Promise ceremonies, what songs do you sing and what games do you play - do include the instructions and the written music so future generations can try them out! That's the sort of thing future generations will want to know about, what a unit did at an average meeting in the 2010s, what they did in 2020 . . .
If you already have any old logbooks or unit records - do try to obtain and record information on what unit they refer to, and where located (geographical location as well as meeting place), and give an idea of the era they cover, who features in photos etc, who the author or authors were - and insert these details on acid-free paper. So often, these details are lost and we see unlabelled sepia photographs of anonymous units or camp scenes being sold for pennies at auctions, when the unit featured might still exist and be longing to know about their lost history, or a full log of a unit's doings and the names of those in the pictures - but no record of who the Guider behind the camera was . . .
In many areas of the UK, archives are maintained at a County level, sometimes in Divisions or Districts too. Collections often include badges, uniforms and books, and archivists are usually willing to lend material, host visitors who wish to see items they hold, or run activity sessions to help units with the 'Traditions' badges - and with other topics too. However in most areas the archivist is a 'one-man-band', a lone enthusiast who could do so much more, with just a little occastional assistance from volunteers. Often, there is little or no budget, and help is required with encouraging donations (of comparatively recent items too), cataloguing stock, organising loans, laundering uniforms, preserving items, publicising the resources visiting units to run 'archives' sessions, etc. Could you offer occasional help? If so, please contact your County's Archivist to offer your services - they'd be delighted to hear from you!
Badge Collecting/Memorabilia Collecting
There are various forms of Guiding memorabilia collecting which people can 'go in for'. I have been asked to give some advice for beginners; my initial suggestions may surprise you!
Decide what you are going to collect. No, really, decide it right now, before you even get started. Are you going to specialise in material from one section or age group? Are you going to specialise in a particular topic like annuals, story books, magazines, uniforms, event programmes, badges, camping, a particular era? Are you going to stick to a particular county or country? Once you have an idea of what specifically you might actually like to collect, take time to work out your chances of success - how much is there to collect? How rare are they? Will they be affordable for your budget? (yes, do have a budget in mind, and try to stick to it despite temptations!) How much competition will there be from other people collecting the exact same thing, or overlapping topics? (Several people I know are currently trying to collect full sets of the 1980s Brownie or Guide interest badges, for instance, so can end up competing for the less common ones like Brownie Observer or Woodworker). Guiding memorabilia, even within the UK, is such a vast topic that you have to narrow down your 'field' in some way, if you are to achieve a comprehensive collection of any one aspect (except, erm, I haven't!) What is achieveable will also depend on what you can store at home - naturally some things are more bulky to keep than others, or more fragile and require specialist care techniques - it's easier to store a collection of vintage interest badges than it is a collection of vintage tents! Some items are much more expensive to source than others - but there are some things which are comparatively inexpensive now, but still well worth conserving as the price will only go up as they become rarer.
Then start by looking at the current trading catalogue. What, look at brand new stuff to start a history collection? Yes, it does seem a daft suggestion, so I'll explain! Values for memorabilia are almost always based on rarity, rather than just age. Even amongst things currently or very recently available, items which didn't sell so well are destined to end up being rare, and thus likely to be more valuable in due course than those which were popular and sold in larger numbers (e.g. 1990s knitted Brownie and Guide jumpers are far rarer than the sweatshirts of the same era, because they were almost twice the price of sweatshirts back in the day, so very few parents bought them! Green Rainbow t-shirt and shorts were always optional wear, and only suitable for high summer, so few people bothered with them - hence they're now rare). Equally, items which weren't available for long (like the pale blue Rainbow Promise badge with the old trefoil) are comparatively rare or likely to become so before long, just because so few were issued before they were superseded. If you can foresee what is likely to be scarce at some point in future, then you can secure it now at cost (or even second-hand price). Though profits can't be guaranteed, and 'prices can go down as well as up', these are the sorts of things that may be worth a punt.
Then look in your unit's cupboard - and ask other Guiders in your area to look in theirs. There may well be old badges lurking in the tin which you can buy out, old books gathering dust which you could have in return for a small donation to unit funds - they could form the start of your collection at little expense, as well as helping units free up storage for current equipment and supplies. If word gets around that you are interested in old Guiding stuff, people may well be willing to pass on their clutter - oh sorry, treasures . . . !
Ask local charity shops and general dealers in your area if they would be willing to keep Guiding donations back for you to see, or to let you know when things which may be of interest come in. Not all will be in a position to do so, but some may well be willing, especially if you pop in promptly, become a regular buyer of the things they have kept back for you, and offer them expert advice on obscure items where you can. Antique dealers, in particular, will be happy to call you first if they know there's a good chance of you giving them a quick cash sale for their finds.
Look at internet auction sites - but don't bid. Not at first anyway - just watch things of interest until you get an idea of what they are really worth - compared to what they can sell for if a bidding war gets going between a couple of desperate rival bidders. Sometimes, items which are current will sell for way above what Trading charge for brand new! It is very easy to get in a bidding war, bid just that pound or two more again in your desire to secure an item you're really keen to have - then realise afterwards that your last 'just one more bid' has left you paying silly money. Many online sellers on these sites have no knowledge of Guiding (as can be seen by some item descriptions!) so do your own research, especially where a starting price seems unusually high or low. Others may offer unlikely items which raise doubts - were these official items, were they locally produced/unofficial souvenirs, or are they something rather more dubious - I've seen modern Promise badges which have lost their enamel in the wash - described as 'rare' or 'unusual'! Sadly, they're not very rare, I have created a few of those myself - so think 'buyer beware'! At the same time, occasionally you will spot a 'hidden treasure' that others have overlooked, and get a bargain.
People have started to manufacture replica items to use for 'display purposes only', where the originals are virtually unobtainable - these do serve a useful educational function provided people are scrupulous about making clear their origins and their replica status, but it means that youmust read descriptions carefully to confirm clearly in your own mind whether the item you are considering investing in is an original or a replica, before deciding how much to bid - and if in doubt, treat as if replica. Some people are now selling good-quality photocopies of originals such as song scores or event programmes - again, check the text carefully to be sure of whether original or photocopy, so you can gauge your bid accordingly. There are also other confusing items like Guider Warrant badges from the Republic of Ireland - they use the same designs nowadays as were used pre-1968 in Britain, so it can be hard to tell the difference between a pre-1968 British badge and a modern Irish one. There are dealers who specialise in Guide/Scout memorabilia and badges - a look through their general price lists will be very helpful in judging whether internet auction prices are a bargain or not. In centenary year, especially, prices for old Brownie and Guide uniforms went sky high - with people paying as much as £80 or £100 for badgeless 1968 - 1990s Brownie dresses or 1980s Guide shirts - which could have been bought the year before (or now) for £15 or less!
Sadly - there are people out there who will produce fake items of Guiding history memorabilia such as badges, if they think there is sufficient market that they could make a good profit by so doing. It is known that faking of Scout badges/awards has taken place in the past and it is reckoned to still go on today. So the same is perfectly possible for Guiding badges, and indeed may already be happening. Caveat Emptor.
There are clubs for Guide and Scout badge collectors, such as the "International Badgers Club" - they are a great way of getting in touch with other collectors, arranging trades, getting an idea of market values, and getting information on your 'unidentified treasures'. If you are looking at buying badges, there is one invaluable book you should obtain at an early stage if you can - the 'Consolidated Guide' by Thelma and Tony Newell. It gives as much information as is known about badges for all the Guiding sections, is full of details which can help when identifying obscure badges, and gives advice on those which can be confusing. It is now out-of-print and will not be re-printed, but is well worth seeking out or borrowing if you can.
Consider storage for your collection. Both in terms of keeping items in good condition, of course - but also in terms of insurance and security. Sad to say, it's not unknown for rare items to 'walk' or be stolen from displays in Guiding premises or at events where they are on display - not to mention the ever-present risk of general house thefts. There have been several sorry instances of Guiding memorabilia displays having items 'removed' from the display cases in recent years. So, if you are putting on displays of your own collection, consider simple ways to ensure your items are 'seen but not touched' by visitors - a clear plastic dry-cleaning bag hung over an old uniform and taped shut at the bottom, or a layer of cling film over a tray of old badges, can encourage people to 'look with their eyes not their hands' and provide just a little minor deterrent from people handling (innocent or otherwise) while still enabling things to be seen by those who are genuinely interested in looking at them, a clear plastic box with sections is an even better option for more valuable badges, especially if the lid can be easily secured down - these can be bought, or a perspex box can have home-made dividers inserted - and consider having at least one person besides youself, who can help keep an eye on the display in general, especially if you might be distracted by answering queries. Think about acid-free paper to protect fragile book covers, cedar-wood hangers to deter moths from textiles, brass staples and paper clips instead of steel, etc. Finally, do consider the cumulative value of your collection, added on to your existing furniture and possessions, against the limitations of your home contents insurance cover. Values do creep up without you necessarily being aware of it, even if you have stopped adding to your collection some years back - and if you obtain items at a few pounds a time as-and-when, then you may not keep a track of how much you have actually invested in total over the period - and replacement values can all too easily become significant sums . . .
And finally, something you may not have thought of - plan what will happen to your collection when you are no longer around to tend and retain it. Is there a family member you could leave it to who would be happy to take on care of it - and would they know all about it and which items were most significant? Is there a friend you could leave it to who would look after it in a way you would be happy with? Have you approached an archive to ask if they would like to receive part or all of it - or not? And whatever you have chosen as your preferred destination for it - have you recorded your wishes in your will, and advised family members of your wishes as well as the planned recipient? Otherwise there is a risk that your collection may not be handled as you would wish it to be.