Museum Review: National Capital Radio & Television Museum

My kids and I went to a fun museum earlier this year. I'm a sucker for vintage technology, so The National Capital Radio & Television Museum was right up my alley. Its sister museum, the National Electronics Museum, is another one we visited for a separate field trip, but I'll be posting about it later.

The NCRTV Museum is in an old house which lends a cozy feel. I had my baby in a stroller with me, and right away I noticed accessibility issues. Half of the museum is upstairs with no elevator (it is an old house after all.) So when we went upstairs I had to hold him the whole time. He wasn't a happy camper, and neither was I for that matter! Ugh. It's definitely not a baby/toddler friendly place.

I hate to start off a review with a negative, but that's really the only one! The rest of the museum was absolutely fantastic. The day was downpour rainy, so we had the whole building to ourselves, which is how I like it!

I wanted to start off with the most fun aspect of the museum - the hands-on stuff. There was a great TOUCH ME table. They had a nice selection of interesting things to touch - knobs to turn, buttons to push, a telegraph key with a working telegraph printer (that's a new one for me!), sound affect instruments they used on old radio shows like a set of coconuts and chimes with wooden mallet, etc. My kids spent a good thirty minutes at this table. When they were done, I went back to have a little play by myself!

One of the volunteer docents gave us a little tour and was very patient as we went along and explored. He was very good at explaining things. My kids were drawn to this nifty radio tube tester, and the docent said that normally he doesn't let the school tour kids play with it, but because my kids were so careful and interested, he let them experiment. I thought that was very nice of him, and they had a grand time!

One large room is dedicated to old television sets. This room was really exciting for a number of reasons, but my kids especially loved this machine that when you spun it and looked into the magnifying glass you could see moving pictures inside. The two machines pictured below are different models of the same concept. The docent took charge of spinning, and then let the kids have a look.

Upstairs, here were a couple sets of WWII radio operator headphones that the kids were able to try on, push buttons and listen to different things.

And lastly, another thing I liked upstairs was this radio/phonograph thing where you could push buttons to hear different period-appropriate music coming out of the horn. I wished I'd had longer to listen, but by this point my baby was getting pretty mad being stuck in my arms and not able to crawl around and explore himself!

Moving on to the rest of the things in the museum - this display showed radio advancements used by the military during WWI & WWII.

Radios have come in every shape and size! Do you recognize anything below?

Beautiful Radios Galore!

Some interesting portable models

Looking around, I spotted a familiar German model...

The television room! Here's just a small sampling. It's amazing how far TV has come! 

These radios were build from kit radios, if I remember correctly. I'm loving that Quaker Oats radio that was geared toward kids!

Drool worthy!!!
They had some reading text for RCA along with their trademark listening dog statues. This is a familiar image to me, because I grew up in Bloomington, Indiana where there's a well-known RCA factory that functioned during WWII creating top secret things...

All of these models are gorgeous! I especially love the Art Deco one on the right.


Upstairs there was a separate room that focused on radio broadcasting. Look at that fancy antennae and the piano radio!

I love these microphones!

One last thing I'd like to highlight is that the museum holds classes on building or fixing old radios, which is a really awesome service! If it wasn't so far away from us, I'd definitely enroll my kids with one of my radios to fix. 😁

Overall, even with the accessibility issues, this museum was fun, fascinating, and worth another visit when I'm toddler-free. It's great to visit and support these lesser-known museums that preserve our communications technology for the rising generations that are reaping the benefits of all that came before. If you're ever in Maryland, I'd recommend a jaunt out to this treasure of a museum!


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