During research for the Conrad Project, little opposition to a museum of broadcasting in Pittsburgh was encountered. Most agreed that the establishment of the broadcasting industry is one of the great milestones in human history and Pittsburgh’s pioneering heritage in radio and TV should be proudly commemorated.
One thing is certain: We’re losing our broadcasting heritage at an alarming rate. Less than a decade ago three important local broadcasting landmarks were in existence. The original site of the Conrad Garage has been lost and the original site of the first KDKA broadcast was demolishedin 2007.
We’ve lost a significant number of artifacts due to the lack of an open facility where people could easily donate items. With the help of the Internet, artifacts that could have been in a Pittsburgh broadcasting museum are instead scattered around the world in private collections. Limited storage space has meant turning down many donations as well.
And, sadly, in recent years we’ve lost many of Pittsburgh’s personalities of radio and television, including several who worked tirelessly toward a museum they will never see. Their memories and stories are gone forever.
Frank Conrad's Garage is to the broadcasting industry what Henry Ford’s workshop is to the automotive industry or the Wright Brothers' workshop is to the aviation industry. These, and the workshops of the pioneers of other industries are preserved in museums. Why not the same for broadcasting?
The longer the Conrad Garage remains in storage the less likely it is to be reconstructed. It would truly be an insult to history if the world were to lose this building, the most important structure of an industry, born here in Pittsburgh, that has entertained, educated and enriched the lives of people worldwide for 90 years.
Several years ago NMB sponsored a feasibility study designed to gauge the prospects for establishing and maintaining a National Museum of Broadcasting in Pittsburgh.
Participants represented a cross-section of knowledgeable people including: business leaders; foundation heads; local, county, state, and federal politicians; educators; museum professionals; broadcasting executives; and historians.
Their responses confirm the basic need for the museum, the important contributions it can make to the region, the high priority of its establishment, its potential to sustain itself, and that the timing is right to bring it into being.
Here are few thoughts by some of those interviewed:
"I feel that this is a wonderful project. The history of radio broadcasting is filled with outstanding accomplishments by some very extraordinarily talented people. A national museum such as the one proposed by the Conrad Project would serve as a lasting testament to their achievements, as well as an outstanding educational resource."
"Admirable from many viewpoints, including enrichment of local culture, historical input, public information and educational potential."
"It’s a great idea because when you have a natural resource, you should try to exploit—develop that resource. Since Pittsburgh was the birthplace of a 20th century phenomenon that reached around the globe, wouldn’t it be great if people could associate Pittsburgh with the birthplace of broadcasting instead of the ‘smokey city?’"
"I favor the idea. One of the key aspects of the project is historic site development. 20th century history museums are of interest to visitors and a rarity in Western Pa."
"I’m afraid if this project does not attract a broad base of community and other support, we will have lost an incredible opportunity to not only preserve the birth and development of electronic media—but also a chance to positively impact the economic development of this area. The excitement and willingness today for collaboration among a diversity of organizations, ... broadcast preservationists, area schools, among many others reaffirms for me that this is a unique idea that can materialize with appropriate backing."