NCRTV Museum Gets Recognition

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The National Capital Radio and Television Museum, which originally was originally founded by MAARC members, recently got some local recognition. Check out the article, and then plan a visit.

Bowie Blade-News / Bowie News

Bowie museum a place to watch, listen

By John McNamara Contact Reporter
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NOVEMBER 18, 2015, 4:47 PM

Remember when you were a kid, and your parents would yell at you for watching too much television? Or they'd complain you were wasting your time listening to the radio? They might have urged you to visit a museum instead.

At the National Capital Radio & Television Museum in Bowie, you can do all three.

Visitors to the museum, located at 2608 Mitchellville Road, can choose from thousands of old radio programs to listen to — everything from Jack Benny to "Dragnet" to "Gunsmoke." There are hundreds of television offerings from the 1950’s and '60’s as well. This month, for example, the museum is featuring episodes of the "Andy Griffith Show" on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Displays include all manner of broadcast-related paraphernalia, including radio and television bumper stickers, cardboard cutouts, publications and promotional items.

Those options may attract the cultural archivists and nostalgia buffs, but the museum staff is quick to point out the historic and scientific appeal of its collections.

The ovulation of radio and television is part of a larger story — the huge advances in technology during the last So years and the ways our lives have changed. Executive director Laurie Baty acknowledges the cultural appeal of the museum's offerings, but feels strongly about the educational component.

"My passion is that we have a concrete story and our objects help tell that story," she said.

A stroll through the exhibits demonstrates her point. American lives in the early clays of radio and later, television — were very different from today. Before television, radio was the focal point of most American living rooms. Your typical model was like another piece of furniture and just about the size of your chest of drawers. The technology was so primitive and the electronics required so much space that companies couldn't make smaller models.

"With some of those, it takes a forklift to move them -- they're so heavy," said Brian Belanger, the museum's curator. "Those old console radios sure were bulky, but the sound quality was great."

There's plenty of evidence of the changes in television technology, too, with a sleek, contemporary wall-mounted flat-screen television occupying the same space as the primitive, boxy sets that folks used in the 1950’s, which were a great deal more cabinet than screen.

Within many of the older models, however, are the origins of the gadgetry we take for granted today. Belanger particularly likes a 1939 Philco model that came with its own wireless remote control.

"That's certainly a radio I love to demonstrate," he said.

Baty delights in showing visitors a 1941 Arvin Model 422 radio, which is about the size of a toaster. John Fries, the original owner and donor, heard the first reports about Pearl Harbor on that radio.

The museum draws about 2,000 patrons a year — even though it's open just three days a week and is staffed solely by volunteers, aside from Baty. Visitors have come from all 50 states and even other countries since the museum opened in 1999. Belanger was stunned when a female college student with a heavy Russian accent came in one day and revealed that her broadcast journalism class in Moscow had heard about the place.

"Our little museum in Bowie has an international reputation," he said.

Baty wants to build on that reputation and the museum's ability to inform and educate. She and a team of dedicated volunteers, including Belanger, want to increase the museum's visibility, make exhibits more visitor-friendly and attract greater financial support. The museum relies exclusively on donations for funding.

"We're trying to do a lot with not a lot of people, wanting more (volunteers) but trying to get a training program in place," Baty said. "We need to find larger support and we're needing more space. But we're beginning to make our voice heard."

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To learn more about the NCRTV Museum, visit their website at: NCRTV.ORG