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 /  Homepage / The Facility / Project Description

Project Description

The proposed Western States Museum of Broadcasting (WSMB) will create a facility at which radio and television broadcasting may be studied and appreciated as “lenses” through which twentieth-century culture can be seen and better understood.  The facility will occupy a restored historic building at the corners of 10th and Front Streets in downtown Medford that has been generously donated to the project by Medford resident Bruce Larson.  Because broadcasting includes elements of technology, sociology and the arts, it reflects our society’s self-sense, creative aspirations and the evolving flux in our social values.  The literature and programming which reports and reflects broadcasting’s emergence and operation provides a unique contemporary record of America and the world as the dawning age of electronics has evolved into the age of information.  Improved understanding of these industries enables better training of students whose future contributions in the communication industries will stimulate socially productive uses of these systems, better training of individuals as literate, discriminating media consumers and provides academic research opportunities for students in corollary fields including music, technology, theater, journalism, history and political discourse.

 

The WSMB will be devoted to the preservation and interpretation of the rich history of radio and television broadcasting in the United States, with particular emphasis upon the development of broadcasting in the western U.S.  The museum will feature:

 

  • a research library, including national and regional broadcasting publications (both popular and trade);
  • archival materials drawn from radio and television stations and their staffs (with particular emphasis upon materials from Oregon, Washington and northern California including San Francisco;
  • a research archive of historic radio and television programming; public displays of artifacts including radio and television receiving equipment, broadcasting equipment and other broadcast-related items typically used in the home;
  • public displays of typical and historic radio and television programming; interactive exhibits;[1]
  • monthly Saturday morning opportunities for children 9-16 to act in live-on-tape recreations of scripts from old radio dramas/serials (Sky King, Suspense, etc.) with volunteer professional producer/director/sound effects crews drawn from the community;
  • guest lectures with radio and television personalities drawn from the western US whose appearances will combine public lectures/performances with participation in the curricular program;
  • a wall of Stars of Broadcasting (kind of a wall-equivalent of Hollywood’s “Walk of Stars”) which recognizes individuals who have significantly contributed to the development of broadcasting in the Western U.S. with a specially struck “star.”  

 

The Museum will also benefit from the participation of numerous radio and television personalities who have retired to southern Oregon and northern California.

 

Museum Elements

 

Research Library:  The WSMB Research Library will include hundreds of magazine titles, with thousands of issues available, spanning the dawn of radio through the 1970’s including Radio News, Popular Radio, RadioCraft, Radio, Radio Broadcasting, Radio Stars, Science and Invention, Radio-Television Mirror, Radio Digest, On the Air, Wireless Magazine and Broadcasting.  The Library will also include over 1,000 hours of radio programming broadcast between 1920 and 1970 including series, specials, drama, music, comedy and a library of over 200 books (many rare), dating as far back as 1918, devoted to radio and television - including all aspects of production, writing, directing, history, programming and media criticism.  Additionally, the Library will include a collection of original local newspapers covering topics relevant to the Museum’s interests including details of the arrival of television in Oregon and Washington. 

 

The Library will house oral histories[2] with individuals who significantly contributed to either the development of radio or television or who contributed significantly to developing network/regional programming; dictionaries of radio and television personalities; a database collection of all AM, FM and TV stations licensed by the U.S. government since the dawn of broadcasting, their owners, frequencies, network affiliations and significant dates associated with changes to these stations; and significant dates in broadcast history. 

 

Displays:  A list of typical permanent displays might include:

 

·         Evolution of radio commencing with the crystal set through to transistor radios including early tube radios and associated equipment (such as horn speakers, batteries, and loop antennas), table top radios of the 1930’s, console radios of the 1940’s, early FM radios

·         Evolution of television including early television sets with magnifying lenses, early “big screen” sets, early color and transistorized sets.

·         Radio studio equipment including collection of microphones dating from early carbon button, studio condenser, velocity mikes of the 1940’s, and microphones of more contemporary styling and KGW’s (Portland) original NBC network studio chimes.

·         Evolution of the recording industry as it applied to broadcasting including cylinder and disk gramophones, a studio disc cutter for transcription recordings and sample transcriptions, early wire recorders, and early consumer and professional tape recorders.

·         Evolution of video recording as it applies to broadcasting including a remote film camera and sample footage, early videotape recorders (both home and consumer models).

·         Programming memorabilia including scripts from programs like Amos ‘n Andy, the Paul Whiteman Program, promotional premiums (such as Junior G-Man rings, Radio Orphan Annie medals and Radio Orphan Annie Secret Society Code Books, Jack Benny/Mary Livingston Jello Program Cookbooks, tickets to various network radio and programs, NBC promotional network chimes, and autographs of various radio and television personalities

 

Special temporary displays might include:

·         The emergence, growth and significance of UHF television with particular emphasis upon KPTV (Channel 12 Portland) which signed on in 1953 as the nation’s first UHF television station.

·         The emergence, growth and significance of cable television with particular emphasis upon Astoria, Oregon, the site of the nation’s first cable television system (which was constructed in 1949)

·         Role of the newspapers in developing radio and television stations

·         KMED radio, southern Oregon’s first radio station and the life of pioneer broadcasters Bill and Blanche Virgin and the original KMED staff.

·         KOBI television, southern Oregon’s first television station and the life of pioneer broadcaster William B. Smullin.

·         The relationship between educational/instructional broadcasters and commercial broadcasters and their joint undertakings to serve the public. 

·         The growth of public broadcasting in the region.

  • The formation of political opinion through evolution of the role of commentators on radio and television.

·         Minorities as reflected in broadcast programming over time

 

Special Collections which might find a home in the WSMB include: 

 

·         Development of broadcasting in western states; the history of broadcasting in large metropolitan areas like Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and in rural communities.

·         The Chevron-Texaco Metropolitan Opera International Radio Network collection of memorabilia associated with the Metropolitan Opera broadcasts dating back to 1931.  (The WSMB was previously designated the exclusive national depository for these items which are already in the Museum’s collection.)

·         The Don-Lee network (originally headquartered in San Francisco and later Los Angeles) which helped to significantly develop network radio along the West Coast.

·         Educational/instructional broadcasting in the West including an archival collection from KPBS(AM), one of the nation’s oldest educational AM radio stations.

·         King Broadcasting which was founded following World War II and endured into the 1990’s as one of the region’s premier broadcasting companies.

·         Fishers Blend stations, a regionally owned network of radio and television stations headquartered in Seattle.  The company dates from the early 1920’s and has continuously owned and operated major stations in Seattle, Portland and other cities.



[1]Such as a “radio DJ” exhibit (allowing youths to play the role of DJ’s), and exhibits featuring methods of generating various common and unusual sound effects, methods of creating optical illusions on television (using chroma-key and other techniques), an exhibit demonstrating an operating spark gap transmitter such as those used in very early radio.

 

[2] The continuing gathering of oral histories with individuals who have made contributions to the field will be an ongoing element of WSMB library activity.




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