Years from now, when historians and tourists visiting the Steel City go to the nascent National Museum of Broadcasting, they’ll likely see and hear invaluable artifacts relating to the birth of American radio.
Thank Duquesne University in Pittsburgh for the foresight to preserve some of the radio industry’s roots, and thank the Pennsylvania Department of Education for funding it.
The Keystone State’s DOE gave Duquesne an $124,219 Educational Access grant expressly for the creation of an accessible collection of historic archival materials about the birth of broadcasting.
The money, says Duquesne, comes in time for broadcasting’s centennial in 2019-2020.
As most radio professionals know, the first federally licensed commercial radio station to broadcast is KDKA-AM 1020 in Pittsburgh, which debuted in 1920.
The museum’s core of dedicated volunteers has preserved the pioneering role that Pittsburgh played in the birth of the radio and television broadcasting industry.
“Out of Pittsburgh came voice radio, commercial and shortwave broadcasting, the first national and international networks, electronic television and public broadcasting,” said NMB Board Member Rick Harris, who is coordinating this project with Duquesne. “NMB’s ultimate goal is the establishment of a major broadcasting and technology museum in Pittsburgh.”
The collection includes hours of radio broadcasts; papers chronicling the early years of radio; artifacts; archival materials; and the dismantled garage of radio pioneer Frank Conrad, where the first radio broadcasts took place.
Duquesne University Archivist Thomas White will oversee a detailed initiative to work with the NMB to appropriately preserve the collection, creating a draw for scholars and the general public seeking to learn more about the history and beginnings of broadcasting as well as to commemorate Pittsburgh’s role in this influential industry.
“The early pioneers of broadcasting were amateur enthusiasts with little or no formal training, yet they made discoveries and created a new form of communication that changed the world,” said Duquesne President Ken Gormley. “We hope that organizing and preserving this important collection will help create a treasure trove of information for researchers and scholars of history.”
Both Duquesne University and the NMB intend to create programs that foster creative inquiry through this partnership, including “virtual field trips” for high school students interested in learning about the birth and evolution of radio.
Veteran broadcaster Bill Hillgrove, who serves as NMB president, is excited about the potential impact of this partnership. “We believe the National Museum of Broadcasting in Pittsburgh—if properly planned, funded and promoted—can become a major educational and tourist destination for our region,” said Hillgrove, a Duquesne University graduate. “This collaborative grant with Duquesne will help to ensure that our collection is properly conserved as we work to raise awareness and the funding necessary to make a permanent museum a reality.”
The project will begin this autumn and will continue through 2018.