Since the 75th Anniversary in 1990 there has been an organized display of historical Scouting and OA memorabilia at NOAC’s (displays, including historical exhibitions date back to at least 1948). In the early years, the displays were few and meager in comparison to later years. The first memorabilia displays in 1990 were located in a small reception area in a girl’s dorm at Indiana University. One of the principle displays, an exhibit of Eagle medals and memorabilia provided by Terry Grove, was placed on top of a piano. That display has grown since then and has been displayed at every NOAC since. In the early years, one could wander into the “museum” and almost be alone and see what they wanted to see in a matter of a few minutes.
In 1998, the displays started to take on a more formal look and occupied roughly 1,200 square feet to resemble what could be termed as a real “museum”. Adam Block, Colonneh Lodge Chief and son of OA historian Nelson Block coordinated the museum with assistance from National OA Committee member Matt Walker. In 2000, Craig Leighty, then President of the American Scouting Traders Association (ASTA) suggested that the museum at NOAC be co-sponsored by ASTA. That way the whole collecting community could be a resource for providing support and displays. Leighty, along with Steve Gaines, also a member of ASTA then volunteered to be co-chairmen for the museum. Craig and Steve continued to be the co-Advisers through the next four NOAC's (through the 2009 NOAC) which formed a basis for the steady growth to what it is today.
In 2000, the museum was approximately 3,000 square feet. A total of fifteen lodges provided a display of their history. The museum included a staff of nine people, three youth and six adults with Dominique Baker as the youth chairman. Ten ASTA members also acted as volunteer docents and security to complement the staff. About 20% of the museum was set up as a recording studio to capture remarks and historical perspectives from Arrowmen that had seen the OA grow over the years and another small area was devoted to preservation by scanning anything that could be found to start a digital archive of OA historical memorabilia.
In 2002, the museum doubled in size to 6,000 square feet and twenty-nine lodges provided a display of their local history. A lodge historical display competition was added and the museum was again co-sponsored by the International Scouting Collectors Association or ISCA (name change in 2001). Preservation activities expanded and historical ceremonial activities were started to help further lodge interest in ceremonies (ceremony re-enactments were performed in the museum by volunteer lodges). Key historical displays were: E. Urner Goodman and National OA Committee memorabilia, OA handbooks, the National Chief’s & Vice Chief’s bonnets, a complete CSP collection and an almost complete name and number OA collection, an OA sash display, an Eagle medal display, a vintage (very old and rare) OA display of chenilles, sateens and felts, and a four foot by sixty-six foot long canvas banner donated by Bill Topkis and Dr. Jeff Morley entitled A Timeline History of the Order of the Arrow Through Insignia. Eleven Arrowmen served on staff and approximately 25 ISCA members assisted by providing docent and security service.
At the 2004 NOAC, in addition to the museum and preservation activities, three new areas of emphasis were introduced: training cells on lodge, national and ceremonial history, OA history panel discussions and an OA memorabilia Road Show. The reenactment of historical ceremonies became a competitive event and a lodge oral historical presentation was added to complement the lodge historical display competition. Participation through the museum and the Center for History venues was visited by over 70% of the NOAC participants.
The Center for History (name coined to recognize the expanded nature of the museum) continued to mature and in 2006, everything was repeated except for the historical ceremony competitions. It was felt that lodges should focus on mastering the present ceremonies and a competition involving historical ceremonies could detract from that goal.
For the 2009 NOAC, a drastic change occurred. The museum had grown to over 11,000 square feet and with a 50% increase in the number of displays showcased over 50,000 items of memorabilia. The museum was truly an event and one of the most attended activities at NOAC. It was divided into five different time periods chronicling the growth of Scouting and the Order of the Arrow and included an additional area for ArrowCorp5.
An entrance video, an art gallery with paintings from the BSA National Museum, a series of “Power of One” banners, a “Power of One” reflection area, a video room to capture living history interviews and frequent appearances by Del Loder, the 2009 Lifetime Achievement Award recipient all complemented the museum. The “Power of One” banners showcased key individuals that contributed to the development of Scouting and in particular the Order of the Arrow. In the reflection area, Arrowmen had a chance to record their personal history and put it on display. The purpose was to help prepare a more comprehensive history of our Order that could be put on display during the 2015 NOAC, the 100th anniversary of the Order of the Arrow and beyond.
The 2012 NOAC Museum again set a new standard for size, ambition and attendance. Bill Topkis was lead adviser taking the helm with the continued leadership of longtime Co-Advisers Craig Leighty and Steve Gaines. Bradley Taylor served as the Museum Chairman. More than 6,000 different participants attended, many multiple times. The Museum featured an entrance video, The Original Induction Experience that transported Museum-goers back to 1915 and Treasure Island. Numerous artifacts were brought in from Treasure Island including a supply of soil gathered at the site of the first induction. Each Arrowman had the opportunity to put together a small medicine bag of the soil as a memento of their experience in the Museum.