An exciting new Adventist Youth Ministries Museum is planned for construction in Battle Creek, Michigan, near the Historic Adventist Village. This permanent museum facility, will be a place where the story of God’s leading as seen in the lives of young people will be told with the full support of the Seventh-day Adventist General Conference and the North American Division. Original artifacts preserved in the discovery center will bring this important story to life through interactive displays and exhibitions.
The nucleus of the future center’s collections had their beginning many years ago when then 10-year-old Dixie (Biggar) Plata enjoyed earning honors while in the fifth grade in Spangle, Washington. When her church began a Pathfinder Club, she eagerly became a member, loving its activities and enjoying being a part of a unit, all the while continuing to earn honors.
That summer, she attended Camp Mivoden at Hayden Lake, Idaho. She visited the camp store daily trying to decide how she should spend her 35 cents. By the end of the week (Friday) she made a decision to buy a bar of soap and an accompanying case, both of which bore the Pathfinder emblem. Upon her arrival home, she placed these special treasures in her dresser drawer, where they stayed. While she would take them out from time to time to look at them and savor the memories of camp, she never used them. They became the beginning of her Pathfinder collection.
In Dixie’s childhood years her heroes were youth directors who came to camp meetings and summer camp telling stories and leading the campers in music. Her second collected treasure was a program of songs she received while attending Junior meetings in Loma Linda, California, while visiting her grandparents. Those meetings were held in the same old outdoor amphitheater where graduations took place, and where Ellen G. White once spoke. With only eight juniors in her home church, it overwhelmed Dixie to join in with the hundreds of juniors attending the camp meeting. She especially enjoyed when Elder John H. Hancock, a young youth director, led the music program with his accordion. Following the service, she joined the line of juniors to obtain his signature in her little songbook which became part of her collection. Dixie’s parents provided her with a subscription to a new magazine, Junior Guide, which she greatly enjoyed. The first issue was published on October 7, 1953, and it, along with subsequent issues, joined her growing collection.
During her academy years, when she was not part of Pathfinders, she still continued to collect relevant materials. She sought out and met with prominent leaders, such as elders: C. Lester Bond, F. A. Mote, Theodore E. Lucas and Eldine Dunbar at the Spokane Youth Congress in 1957. As elderly relatives down sized their possessions and/or died, she would be given old Youth’s Instructor magazines, Review & Heralds (now named Adventist Review), and old Sabbath School materials to augment her archives.
Returning to Pathfinders
In 1960 Dixie returned to her beloved Pathfinders, first as an Honor Instructor and later as a Club Secretary. Because the Pathfinder meeting room was located just above the Dorcas (now called Adventist Community Service) room, the volunteers would save items for Dixie to recycle for the club. Old patches, books, etc., were also added to her collection. She enjoyed working with some awesome club directors throughout the years, with Howard Juhl and Dale Alexander being the most outstanding.
When Dixie was club director she felt the need of a safe way to share her collection, so several of her teen counselors built display cases. The displays were shared beginning in 1978 at churches for Pathfinder Sabbaths, and at Pathfinder Fairs and Camporees.
In 1982 Dixie married Arnold Plata, who had been a Pathfinder Honor Instructor since 1973, and discovered that he, too, had a good collection of Pathfinder manuals and handbooks as a result of his involvement in Pathfinders. When they put their collections together, a dream was born of a Pathfinder museum that would tell the story of how God has led youth to Christ. Arnold was a dentist who was highly skilled with his hands. His talent led to the development of good woodworking skills, and he has built more than 130 display cases. The first North American Division Camporee, held at Camp Hale, Colorado in 1985 was their first exposure to a larger audience.
The Future of the Collection
Thanks to the generosity and thoughtfulness of world youth leaders: union, conference, and club directors, as well as many other individuals, the collection has grown in size and more global in scope.
The time finally came when Seventh-day Adventist leaders felt that they should begin planning for a permanent home to display these historic artifacts and to tell the stories they embodied in a compelling way. In 1992, the North American Division Pathfinder Committee, led by chairman Norm Middag, voted to approve the concept of developing a Pathfinder/Youth museum. His fellow committee members were Bob Wong, Allan Williamson, Terry Dodge, and, of course, Dr. Arnold and Dixie Plata.
The North American Division Pathfinder Committee minutes record the many discussions, efforts, and actions that have been made and taken, and include the following:
1993—Voted to investigate the possibility of having the NAD Pathfinder/Youth museum associated with the Historic Adventist Village in Battle Creek, Michigan.
1994—Voted to support the Adventist Historic Properties, Inc., Battle Creek, Michigan, by sponsoring the Youth/Pathfinder museum, requesting use of the 422 Champion Street house and the Loughborough home next door.
1997—Voted to give study to the future support of Dixie and Arnold Plata’s Pathfinder Heritage mobile unit upon their retirement, as they continue to share Pathfinder history.
During the following years the Adventist Heritage Ministry board decided the time period for the Historic Adventist Village would be from 1852 to 1902; therefore, the Pathfinder Museum would need to be placed in a nearby location as it wouldn’t fit into that time period.
2001—Voted to approve the concept of building a Pathfinder museum, to be located in Battle Creek on property adjacent to the Historic Adventist Village.
2006—In order to ensure that the finished project would be a stand-alone entity, the formation of the Pathfinder Museum, Inc., was approved on March 2007 by the Michigan and Lake Union conferences and the North American Division. A small board of seven members was selected, including Terry Dodge, president; Dixie Plata, secretary; Don Lloyd, treasurer; Allan Williamson; Bob Holbrook; Norm Middag; and Arnold Plata.
2008—The NAD Pathfinder Committee voted to endorse the creation of a Pathfinder museum, to be located in Battle Creek, Michigan, and authorized the solicitation of funds.
2012, February 26—The assumed name “Youth-Pathfinder Discovery Learning Center” was adopted to best encompass the complete history of the youth in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, beginning in the mid-nineteenth century and extending to the present. Its mission statement reads as follows:
“The Youth-Pathfinder Discovery Learning Center will be a place to encourage and inspire young people from around the world to see how the hand of the Lord helped to change lives. We are dedicated to telling the full story of how God has guided, is guiding and will guide His youth throughout the world.”
2013—The Youth-Pathfinder Discovery Learning Center Museum board sent a request to the North American Division leadership for the following:
- Authorization to establish a “Youth-Pathfinder Discovery Learning Center” in Battle Creek, Michigan.
- Authorization to look for a feasible location near the Historic Adventist Village in Battle Creek, Michigan.
- Authorization to launch a capital campaign to raise funds for the Discovery Learning Center in the North American Division and around the world.
The North American Division leadership gave their approval in December 2013.
Beginning in 1985 up until the present, Arnold and Dixie Plata have provided the traveling museum with 30 or more display cases of historic artifacts for exhibiting at many conference, union, and division Pathfinder camporees. The latest large display was August 12-16, 2014, at the Forever Faithful Pathfinder Camporee in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, which provided attendees with 28,000 square feet of exhibitions telling the story of the youth/Pathfinder movement since the 1840s.
A Joint Effort
The “Adventist Youth Ministries Museum” is a joint effort of all of us working together to tell the wonderful and exciting story of God’s leadership in the lives of the youth of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Artifacts and supplies are being continually transferred to Michigan for safe storage whenever the Platas are able to deliver them. They still have a large archive of items preserved at their home in Oregon.
After considerable discussion and wanting this project to be all inclusive the board voted on November 24, 2015 to readjust the name to “Adventist Youth Ministries Museum”. The desire of the board is to have everyone feel they are a part of a movement that started in the mid 1800’s and continues today and into the future regardless of what part of the ministry they were involved in the past or are involved in now.
You can be a part of this story by encouraging individuals to provide artifacts that will help fulfill the center’s mission, as well as financially supporting the “Adventist Youth Ministries Museum” project.
You can be a part of this story by encouraging individuals to provide artifacts that will help fulfill the center’s mission, as well as financially supporting the “Youth-Pathfinder Discovery Learning Center” museum building project.