National Capital Radio and TV Museum in Bowie has lots of artifacts

August 18, 2012

The National Capital Radio and Television Museum, housed in a historic farmhouse in Bowie, has had much the same mission since opening in 1999 — to explore how radio and television began, evolved and wound up in our homes. Although technology keeps forcing new additions and areas of inquiry (i.e., how did radio and television wind up on our cellphones, our satellite dishes, our iPods, etc.?), Director and Curator Brian Belanger says the roots of these powerful media, which have helped shape the world, are found in humble cables and wires.

7 Museum galleries providing a chronological history of the receivers used by radio listeners and television watchers over the years. Galleries include “How It All Works,” about radio sound effects; the “Birth of Broadcasting”; and “Wireless Beginnings.” Past exhibitions focused on the role of radio and television in public affairs, and the golden age of documentaries.
1858 The date of the museum’s oldest artifact — a chunk of an Atlantic Telegraph cable laid across the ocean floor making it possible to send a telegram from the United States to England.
100 Television sets in the museum collection, including the 1931 “See-All” brand, one of only two known to exist, which featured a motor-driven spinning disc revolving at high speed in front of a light source instead of a picture tube.
550 Radios in the museum collection, including the 1906 radio precursor, the Audion, to present-day satellite and HD radios.
25 Filing cabinets full of old factory service literature for nearly every radio or television receiver made. Someone looking to repair a 1926 Atwater Kent radio, for example, might call the museum from anywhere in the world. Curators pull old manuals and mail (or perhaps telegraph) them to requesters.
30,000 The number of old radio programs the museum has stored in MP3 format. Visitors can hear the “WWII, Life at Home” series, which includes special wartime broadcasts, played through vintage radios.

— Lonnae O’Neal Parker

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