A Museum for Everyone
An important aspect of the proposed National Museum of Broadcasting is its wide scope. Everyone living today is a part of broadcasting’s 90-year history and everyone can find some shared interest or experience at a broadcasting museum. Where many museums have a very narrow focus, this museum appeals to everyone regardless of age or background.
There are three overall aspects of broadcasting that will be featured in the permanent museum building. These are history, technology, and programs & personalities.Below are some of the exhibits and features envisioned if the museum becomes a reality.
The earlier section of this proposal provided a summary of the historical events that took place in Pittsburgh. These noteworthy achievements will be highlighted through exhibits of artifacts, photographs, and re-creations of historic broadcasting venues (Conrad Garage, 1920 KDKA Shack, Zworykin’s 1st Home Electronic Television, etc.). While this aspect of the museum alone will attract visitors, it is only part of what will be on display to the public.
A key element of the museum will be its creative display of 10 decades of radio and television technology. For example, instead of only static, glass-enclosed artifacts, visitors will find interactive exhibits that put them back into the past. They will sit in a 1920s parlor and listen-in on functional crystal radio sets and watch Neil Armstrong walk on the moon in a vintage 1969 living room.
Working TV and radio studios also will be an integral part of the museum. There visitors will learn how broadcast programs are put together from a technical perspective. Museum-goers can try their hand at producing live sound-effects in the re-creation of early radio shows. In a more modern vein, patrons will be able to sit at a news anchor desk and be videotaped reading the news or sports. The tape can then be purchased as a keepsake of the museum visit.One section of the museum will be devoted to electrical and electronic communication and the physical theories behind them. Visitors will learn how radio and TV works with "hands-on," interactive exhibits designed to foster interest in science and technology.
Programs and Personalities
When someone mentions early radio programs, some national favorites come to mind: The Lone Ranger, The Shadow, Jack Armstrong-the All-American Boy, Arthur Godfrey, The Hit Parade and Orphan Annie.
But there were many Pittsburgh radio favorites during those early years. Among them were Cordic & Company, Uncle Ed, Party Line, Rosey Rowswell, the Wilkens Amateur Hour, and The Dream Weaver. The museum’s focus on radio programs and personalities will be a mix of local, state and national talent. The same will be true with television.
The museum will house an archive of audio and video recordings that will be accessible to both patrons and students of communication history. The library will be catalogued on computer and the programming material will be stored digitally for instant access.
A theater space in the museum will have several functions. It will serve as an orientation space to acquaint tour groups with the museum. It will allow audiences to participate in the live re-creation of early radio and television programs that take place on stage. And it will be the site of lectures and retrospectives of local and national broadcasting programs and personalities.
Other ideas include re-creating the sets of well-known TV programs and permitting visitors to pose for photographs dressed as characters from the shows. Digital prints can be picked up before the visitors leave or be e-mailed.
Since commercial broadcasting began in Pittsburgh, it makes sense to have a section of the museum devoted to radio and TV commercials of the past. Other broadcasting museums report that exhibits of old commercials are among their most popular attractions.
Pittsburgh certainly has enjoyed its share of memorable sports broadcasting events during the past 90 years. Yet there is no single place to relive those memories. The sports broadcasting section of the museum will cover local collegiate and professional sports teams through their glorious (and not so glorious) years on the air in Pittsburgh.
Every radio and TV station in Pittsburgh has its own unique history whether it is one year old or ninety years old. Each will have a permanent space in the museum to display its history and to originate programming live from the museum at various times throughout the year. Ultimately the histories of all Pennsylvania stations and stations from around the country will find a proper place in the National Museum of Broadcasting. If needed, stations will find in the museum a safe, climate-controlled repository for their film and tape archives and a convenient, tax-deductible home for used equipment.