The American Museum of Radio and Electricity
1312 Bay St.
Wed-Sat 11:00 AM - 4:00 PM
The American Museum of Radio and Electricity, located at 1312 Bay Street in downtown Bellingham, houses a nationally recognized collection of vintage radios and other relics, representing the ancestors of the cell phone, high-speed internet and cable television. Housed in over 23,000 square feet, the museum is dedicated to the preservation of antique radios and the history of the scientific exploration of electricity, the golden age of radio, and the dawning of the wireless age. The museum was founded in 1985 by Jonathan Winter, and back then was known as "The Bellingham Antique Radio Museum". It consisted of his collection of over 800 vintage radios, dating from the early 20s and up. When the museum relocated in 2001, pre-1920 wireless and electrical devices collected over the years by John Jenkins were added to the museum’s collection. Winter and Jenkins now co-curate the museum
The collection is laid out in an approximate chronological order, beginning with the 1600s -- the "Dawn of the Electrical Age" -- and ending in the 1950s with the "Golden Age of Radio". As you walk the museum’s circuit, you’ll have the chance to experience well-done and interesting exhibits like a reproduction of a scientific laboratory from Benjamin Franklin’s era, a hands-on learning center with interactive exhibits demonstrating the properties of static electricity, and a full-scale reproduction of the Titanic’s radio room. Some of our favorite exhibits were the 1930s Living Room, where we sat and listened to Bud Abbott and Lou Costello on a vintage Zenith radio, and the old "party line" telephone, where we eavesdropped on a conversation between a depression-era farmwife, her daughter and their local grocer.
In addition to an impressive and engaging collection, The Museum of Radio and Electricity has a friendly and helpful staff who are more than willing to answer questions and demonstrate how many of the artifacts work, encouraging even young visitors (I had an eight-year old and a five-year old with me during my visit) to explore the museum in a "hands-on" way wherever possible. The Museum’s motto is "where discovery sparks imagination", and they are committed to feeding the curiosity and furthering the education of their visitors. They have developed "Science Saturday", a weekly, hands-on science workshop for students ages 8 and up, and offer guided tours and a mobile classroom to schools. In addition, on March 1, 2005 they began broadcasting music and vintage shows from the Golden Age of Radio on local station 102.3 FM. If you have yet to visit this treasure in the heart of Bellingham, I recommend it -- it’s an experience not to be missed.
Head down Holly Street and take a right onto Bay Street (just before Old Town). The Museum is in the middle of the block, on your right.
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