The Pavek Museum of Broadcasting,
in a suburb of Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minn., is a place anyone
can enjoy. Visitors are greeted by a vintage 250-watt AM
broadcast transmitter and studio console complete with
microphone and turntables, as well as by Managing
Director/Curator Steve Raymer.
Holmes mystery is performed by the Red-Throated League
of the Norwegian Explorers of Minnesota.
There are 12,000 square feet of
antique radios, televisions and broadcast transmitting equipment
ready to be explored. The museum opened in 1988 with its
namesake Joe Pavek Collection and grew to be a $400,000/year
budget in this nonprofit organization with wireless audio and
video tours for visitors.
The museum features a working
spark gap transmitter in the “Titanic” section to show visitors
what pre-voice communications were like in 1912.
One of the best displays is a
Magnetophon tape recorder from the Jack Mullin Collection. This
is the rarest of tape machines, German-made during World War II.
Mullin brought two back to the United States after the war and
modified them for production under the Ampex name. Bing Crosby
was the first to recognize its potential and used them in his
1947–48 broadcast season, a significant first in the
Another display showcases an
original de Forest Audion tube. It is generally agreed that Lee
de Forest did not fully understand what he had in this tube.
Edwin Armstrong was the one who figured out what was making the
tube amplify radio signals, but de Forest received the credit.
Later versions of the electron tube made broadcasting possible
managing director of the Pavek, wears a Zenith
long-distance radio shirt.
You can also try your hand at
making music on an RCA Theremin. This instrument from 1918 is an
audio oscillator controlled by the player’s hands, which vary
audio frequency and volume when near, but not touching, two
antennas. The Theremin makes a hauntingly beautiful sound.
If you are a ham, there is a
complete working Collins amateur radio station from the 1950s
and another from the 1960s. If you are not involved in the
hobby, the Pavek conducts classes so you can become a licensed
amateur radio operator.
There is a lot to try and learn
from in this museum, including military radios. It is hard to
stay away whenever I am in town, and I visit about two to three
times per year.
|An original NBC
chime signals the beginning and end of a program. Two
Cub Scouts are shown here, learning how to produce a
live closed-circuit radio show.
Kids 9 to 14 will like
“Magnets to Megahertz.” It is described as a 14-week hands-on
enrichment for the electronics wizards of tomorrow. The museum
also offers an electromagnetism course, and oldsters like the
radio workshop where vintage radio repair is taught.
Field trips from local schools
and scouting groups make frequent appearances at the Pavek. A
broadcast workshop has kids doing a live radio program on
closed-circuit KPAV radio while being watched by parents and
others through large windows. The audio console is believed to
be Serial Number 1 of a Collins 212E1 audio console from 1959,
purchased on the NAB floor by broadcaster Jim Wychor for use at
KWOA in Worthington, Minn. There is a working vintage teletype
system where news flashes are received in the studio and read
live during the program.
A recent broadcast read: “A cow
has jumped over the moon. The world’s first rocket-powered
bovine space flight was successful. NASA announced today that is
has plans to start lunar cheese production by the end of the
year!” (You should see expressions on the faces of kids when
|Mark Persons is
shown with a Type 23 Western Electric 250-watt AM
transmitter from 1936 and a Gates model SA-40 “Speech
Input Console” from the 1960s.
Visitors are also treated to
Sherlock Holmes at the museum once a year. This is where the
“Red-Throated League of Norwegian Explorers” puts on a radio
play, complete with commercials touting stomach remedies from
the 1930s and ’40s as well as live sound effects.
Here you can also learn about
the Minnesota Broadcasting Hall of Fame, which features 164
honorees and is growing. See stories about these broadcast icons
and what they did for the industry.
Some 8,500 visitors experience
this place each year, and many broadcast groups meet there,
including local SBE Chapter 17, the Minnesota DX Club, the Audio
Society of Minnesota and the Morse Telegraph Club. The Northland
Antique Radio Club does part of their annual Radio Daze swap
meet in the spring at the Pavek.
The museum also runs a dubbing
service to copy old film and video for a fee to CDs or hard
Magnetophon tape recorder from WWII Germany. It
revolutionized audio and then television recording.
www.museumofbroadcasting.org, showcases a lot of
history, including stories about pioneer broadcasters.
The museum would like to
complete its collections with more Titanic-era Marconi equipment
and a working (or reproduction) mechanical scanning disc
television. Maybe you can help.
Mark Persons, WØMH, is a
Certified Professional Broadcast Engineer and has more than 30
years’ experience. His website is