If there is a heaven for electronics enthusiasts, this might be it. Three important collections, and a lot of hard work come together in this huge non-profit museum that rivals much better-funded places. Here’s a link to a great little video made about the Pavek by a local TV station. A bewildering collection of working items beautifully displayed in an uncluttered, upbeat setting. There are self-guided tours with recorded audio explanations. The friendly staff make you feel right at home. Highlights: Early sound recording technology, a working spark gap transmitter, a real Marconi coherer, a Philco radio with the first wireless remote control, TV camera used by Walter Cronkite, the first audio tape recorder brought to the US, for use by Bing Crosby to “time shift” his radio show, The Pavek hosts bus loads of school children daily. They get to broadcast from a groovy mid-century radio studio with turntables and all and play Jeopardy on a TV studio set complete with working scoreboards and a real live host. There are other programs and facilities for HAMs children and adults, Home to the Museum of Broadcasting Hall of Fame. A truly amazing place!
The American Museum of Radio is an ambitious, and respected collection located in the charming town of Bellingham, Washington. Their vision calls for "the American Museum of Radio to be the best at presenting the relationship between early investigations into the phenomenon of electricity and the subsequent development of radio." Here is a link to some of their exhibits, (current and planned), "spanning eleven galleries and three centuries of scientific achievement and cultural heritage." I have not yet visited, but plan to in the very near future, and will update this listing when I return.
No mention of American museums would be complete without a tip of the hat to the Granddaddy of them all, the Smithsonian, in Washington DC. The National Museum of American History building houses countless artifacts of interest to vintage electronics collectors, displayed mostly in an exhibit titled Information Age. It's a little dusty, and there are a few gaps in the chronology, but still a place impressive enough to justify a trip to DC.
Speaking of Washington DC, while there do not miss the International Spy Museum. Full of transistorized spy gadgets, (tiny recorders, transmitters, receivers, etc.), and so much more. Take the kids, or go by yourself, but plan plenty of time for this sprawling, interactive adventure in an award-winning, no expense spared space. Awesome!
The Antique Wireless Association, (AWA), operates two museum facilities—the one shown here, and a more contemporary annex building, both located in the suburbs of Rochester, NY. There’s an amazing array of historical communications equipment, associated with the likes of Marconi, De Forest, Armstrong, Edison and other technology pioneers. AWA members collect and maintain these working and static exhibits. They also produce print publications, run annual conferences, and much more. A great group to join if you haven't already! I had a chance to visit the museum and annex during the 2003 summer conference, and can’t wait to go back next year. Consider putting it on your calendar too.
Here’s a place in Huntington WV that I haven’t visited yet, but everybody says it’s great. I met some of the folks who run it at the 2003 AWA conference, and was impressed with their professionalism and enthusiasm. Housed in a converted 10,000+ square feet red brick elementary school building built in the 1920's, it looks like they have quite a variety of working and static displays; a classroom, plenty of social activities, and more. It’s on my “to-do” list. How about yours? The Museum is easily accessible from Interstate 64, Exit 6, or from Route 52 or Ohio Route 7. See the website for more details.
Yet another east coast museum. Explore radio from Marconi's earliest wireless telegraph to the primitive crystal sets of the 1920s, through Depression-era cathedrals and the post-War plastic portable radios, and finally, to the development of radio with pictures, called television. The museum is located in the 1906 Harmel House, an old storekeeper's residence in the village of Mitchellville, a section of modern south Bowie. A store occupied the site as early as the 1870s. The Edlavitch family, Russian Jews who immigrated to the rural Bowie area in 1888, lived in the house until 1925. The Harmel family later lived there, operating the old store as one of the earliest African-American businesses in the area until a 1985 fire destroyed it. The City renovated the house, and now has joined the Radio History Society in presenting the broadcasting history which so dramatically has shaped our lives from the 1920s to today. The museum is open free of charge Saturdays and Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m., or by appointment for groups of 10 or more, and is accessible for people with disabilities. 2608 Mitchellville Road Bowie, MD 20716 Phone 301-390-1020.
The primary focus here seems to be military radar. But it sounds like there is much more. I have not visited yet. Have you? Here's part of their description: From telegraph and radio to radar and satellites, the HEM offers visitors free access to the electronic marvels that have helped to shape our country and our world. Located within minutes of Baltimore Washington International (BWI) Airport and the BWI Rail Station, the museum offers a wide variety of both static and interactive displays, as well as a research and lending library that is open to the general public, with holdings that focus on all aspects of electronics history. Media format includes videotapes, manuals, books and journals. We also have an archive of historical photographs and documents that are available for legitimate research projects. Click here to see an Adobe pdf showing the layout of the HEM!
Irving Texas appears to be the site of an intriguing place with the same name as the prior listing. It doesn't seem to have a website yet. Anybody know these folks? Their description: The National Museum of Communications was started in 1979 in Dallas by William J. Bragg with 41 items he had collected. High rent and lack of financing forced Mr. Bragg to close his labor of love in 1983. To his surprise, the original items, which he had brought to the location in one U-Haul truck, had grown to fill 21 large moving vans. He found a home for the museum in a new movie studio location in Irving. The museum has been going strong and growing ever since, and now includes such items as the camera that broadcast the assassination of Lee Harvey Oswald, Charlie Chaplin's movie camera, and Walter Cronkite's microphone.