W.Va. museum tuned in to radio, technology history

Vintage Philco Grandfather Radio Clock. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com archive and Tim's Inc.

Vintage Philco Grandfather Radio Clock. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com archive and Tim’s Inc.

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (AP) – Touring the Museum of Radio and Technology is like stepping back in time to the beginning of radio, television and computers.

It opened in 1991 in the old Harveytown Elementary School, 1640 Florence Ave., on Huntington’s West End and is touted as the largest radio museum in the nation and attracts visitors from throughout the world.

However, many locals are unaware of the rooms filled with history and treasures.

“We are trying to create a time capsule,” said curator Geoff Bourne, who is aware of the historical significance of the collection as well as how much of it works.

The museum was once located on Charleston’s West Side but outgrew its space. The old school offered a lot more space but the rooms are still filled with an impressive collection that spills out into the hallways. The building was purchased for $22,500 and grants were acquired over the years for fixing it up with things like a new roof as well as a new heating system.

Bourne said various groups as well as information technology students enjoy touring the facility, and yet many locals are not aware of its existence.

Bourne travels throughout the country, logging 4,000 to 5,000 miles a year, in search of more exhibits that tell the history of technology. Sometimes, the trips are made to pick up specific items that have been offered to the museum such as RCA Radiola in a large cabinet that cost $895 in 1927. The piece once belonged to the Wrigley family; yes, Bourne points out, the one with the chewing gum empire.

Among numerous interesting pieces – a 1931 Crosley grandfather clock radio, a radio built into a refrigerator in 1953 by Bernard F. Clark, a 1939 television camera used at the New York World’s Fair, a 1923 bread board radio, an RCA record cutter, walkie talkies from World War II, a World War I telegraph system, a World War II Japanese field radio, and the first color camera from WSAZ.

There are also phonographs and vinyl records as well as shelves lined with tubes, components, batteries and various paraphernalia.

“We are in the process of beginning to teach classes here on basic radio repair and safety,” Bourne said. “Some have grandma’s old radio and it has lethal voltage.”

There is a separate area where meetings are held for the Tri-State Amateur Radio Association. The room is filled with new and vintage stations.

After touring the facility, guests may want to stop by the museum’s gift shop where items to be sold range from T-shirts and hats to books and vinyl records.

Also, stop by the West Virginia Broadcasting Hall of Fame with 175 people now included.

The museum is open every Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m. Admission is always free as a service to the community. For more information or group reservations, call 304-525-8890.


Information from: Charleston Daily Mail, http://www.charlestondailymail.com

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AP-WF-10-25-14 1407GMT