Nearly 300 individuals have been recognized as inductees to the National Soccer Hall of Fame. But the work of one woman is largely responsible for allowing the Hall’s stories – and by extension, the story of soccer in the United States – to be told. Margaret “Peg” Brown served as the Hall of Fame’s archive manager and her overhaul of the Hall’s inventory and archival practices secured the history of American soccer. The wife of Hall of Famer George Brown, Peg and her husband spent several years as essential parts of the Hall’s administration. Mrs. Brown passed away this weekend, but her legacy will endure as an indispensable protector who helped preserve United States soccer history.
According to her husband, Peg knew nothing about soccer until their marriage in 1962. From then on, her life would be forever linked to the sport. Both George and his father, Jim Brown, are Hall of Famers and capped National Team players. After a spell running cabins in Nova Scotia, the Browns headed south in 1999 to be involved at the then-new Hall of Fame building in Oneonta, New York.
“We thought it would give us a focus late in our life,” George said. “It was terrific while it lasted… It filled a need for the Federation and the Hall, and for us.”
Early in their involvement with the Hall of Fame, it was clear that new archival processes were necessary. Peg and George were asked to do a show-and-tell presentation at a local school with pieces from the Hall of Fame collections. Weeks after returning the items, the couple found the memorabilia in the middle of the floor in a plastic bag and boxes strewn about. There was no standard for signing out or refiling the objects. Peg knew that wasn’t good enough. Not only for family memorabilia, such as Jim’s gear from the 1930 World Cup that resided in the Hall, but for all of the objects that composed the history of American soccer.
George said that there was never too big a task for Peg, and she was undaunted by the monumental job of organizing the Hall’s archives. Its collection of over 80,000 objects represents one of the largest collections of soccer memorabilia and records in the world. Nine hundred boxes contained these artifacts (physical memorabilia, photos, memos and more) organized by era, but without any information on their contents. Peg went through each of the 900 boxes and meticulously inventoried each item, writing out the details of every object, down to the smallest pin. She spent her career as a nurse all over the world, and she brought that same care to her organization efforts.
Her transformation of the Hall’s archives became a full-time job from 2003-2008. In the course of it, she inventoried the entirety of the archives, hundreds of boxes from the 1994 World Cup organizing committee and artifacts from the Hall of Fame museum. Not only was Peg meticulous in her archiving, but she and George also collected memorabilia, heading out to the boonies to pick up scrapbooks and artifacts.
Peg collaborated with authors and historians to access materials, previously a nigh-impossible task, and in the process earned thanks in several books on the sport’s history. She made research in the archives possible. With Peg in charge, nothing was withdrawn without a sign-out and nothing entered without a sign-in. Every piece was accounted for in her care.
As the Hall of Fame prepares to move to a new location at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas, the new establishment will owe a great deal to Peg. Her work with the collection secured the history of American soccer and U.S. Soccer thanks her for her contributions to the sport.