Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Celebrating Our Success: A National Award for the Library at the Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace!




Guest Blog Post by Cindi Malinick and Lisa Junkin Lopez

Since its opening more than two years ago, tens of thousands of Girl Scouts and visitors from around the world have enjoyed Girls Writing the World: A Library, Reimagined, an installation at the Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace in Savannah, Georgia. This week, the exhibition was awarded a National Recognition from the American Alliance of Museums for “Excellence in Exhibition” for “Creating Big Change in a Small Package.” This tremendous honor places Girl Scouts of the USA in the company of the National Museum of African American History and Culture and the Getty, among other recipients this year.

What were these big changes in a small package? The library was transformed from the traditional historic house museum presentation (static and singular-sensory), with little connection to Girl Scouts or even Juliette Gordon Low, to an interactive and layered space. Visitors are encouraged to touch, listen, and see the importance of the written and spoken word as necessary tools to building girls of courage, confidence, and character. The exhibit includes different languages and learning styles, as well as a seamless intersection of art and history, resulting in a bright, creative, and thought-provoking space. Some of the first Girl Scout badges are displayed, highlighting the importance of learning different languages. iPads feature video content of a poetry recited at the White House by Rita Dove, the former Poet Laureate of the United States (and a Girl Scout!). The room’s historic furnishings are filled with a revolving collection of books by, for, and about girls and to underscore the multiple roles and contributions they’ve made at Girl Scouts and throughout history. Whether visitors are leaving their own lines of poetry under the “PoeTree,” inspired by a 1920s Girl Scout silhouette graphic; playing Scrabble in Spanish; or reading Juliette Gordon Low’s musings from her journal, there are plenty of opportunities for them to find their own voices and connect. All within the cozy heart  of a library!




Beyond the museum community, girls, troop leaders, and other visitors have also shared their love for the installation. In 2016, the birthplace conducted three months of focused evaluations to understand how visitors experience the birthplace, including the library. Juliette Gordon Low believed that Girl Scouts should be decision-makers for the organization, saying, “if it isn’t right, the girls won’t take to it, and it won’t last.”[1] Birthplace staff followed her advice, turning to girls (and their troop leaders!) to understand how the library exhibit resonates. Their responses were overwhelming: girls feel the library is engaging, historically rich, and relevant to today’s girls.



“Dear Daisy, I felt very honored to visit your house today. My favorite room in the house was the Reimagined Library, because we did so many hands-on activities. My favorite thing we did was making our own self-portraits, because we learned how empowering art is for us. We heard about how you made a difference by founding Girl Scouts. Here’s how I would like to make a difference: keeping your legacy [alive] for as long as I can.”

                 —Morgan, age 13, participating in the “Dear Daisy” postcard activity



“When I tell my friends and family about this house, I’ll say that it was fun and educational at the same time. I would recommend it to my friends.”

—Anonymous Girl Scout



“In the library, it was neat to see that communication was a key element for Girl Scouts to focus on! Then and now!”



—Anonymous Girl Scout volunteer



So, what’s next for the birthplace? This year, the site is introducing two new Girl Scout Troop Experience programs that promise to be a big hit. The first, She’s Got Game, uses vintage Girl Scout activities, theater games, and mindfulness exercises to encourage risk taking and confidence building. The second, Over Cups of Tea, launching next month, offers a special tea experience for Seniors and Ambassadors in the parlor. The program explores how women and girls have historically launched new social movements—such as Girl Scouts, women’s suffrage, and the Civil Rights Movement—from their own parlors, kitchens, and dining rooms.


Planning a visit to see the birthplace and Girls Writing the World? For more information on our programs, tours, and other projects, visit www.juliettegordonlowbirthplace.org.


[1] As remembered by Dorris Hough in Juliette Low and the Girl Scouts: Juliette Low Goes Camping, p. 114.