In 1957, WH 38 left the museum by hiding in the pants pocket of a young boy who visited the facility with a scouting group. The child accomplice assisted the dart’s escape by removing the piece from a display. In those days, the museum exhibits consisted of items spread across tables and pieces of plywood that were held up by wooden sawhorses. So escape was easy, and in the case of a number of artifacts, inevitable.
Despite the efforts of a scout leader who noticed the child take the dart from the display, insisted he put it back on the table and then watched him do so, the child and the dart were determined. They tried again and finally managed the escape when no one was looking. The liberation of WH 38 was discovered some time after the museum visit and the scout leader, being the honest and upstanding individual he was expected to be, swore he would someday return the dart to its proper home. But alas, the leader’s youthful age, lack of travel funds and uncertainty about the best way to return the object delayed his task.
A few days ago, the now not as youthful, not lacking in travel funds and not as uncertain scout leader set out on a trip from Tennessee to Virginia. His goal was to visit several deceased family members who reside in a nearby cemetery. But since he was already going to be in the area and since he was determined to honor the pledge he made long ago, the leader formulated a plan for the return of WH 38. He enlisted his wife’s help to prevent further escape attempts and the dart was confined to a securely closed compartment inside her purse for the trip back to the museum.
When they arrived, the scout leader confidently informed the young woman at the Admissions Desk of his intention and she summoned a member of the Collections Department from the depths of the museum storage areas out into the light of day to receive the object. They listened as the leader shared what he knew about the dart’s escape and history as a fugitive from the museum and offered apologies on behalf of the anonymous child accomplice. Instead of being angry, the museum staffers were delighted to see WH 38 return and exclaimed words of joy. For this wasn’t the first time they had heard a similar story or had an object return from a vacation outside the museum walls.
After the official exchange of WH 38 for a heartfelt thank you and a few laughs, the honest and determined scout leader and his wife drove off into the sunshine with the satisfaction of having done a very good and honorable deed.