Old Stuff Revitalized For New Projects
By Paul R. Beck
The Museum of Broadcast Technology is a tenplus year-old non-profit Museum for the technical
tools of the Broadcasting and Media industry. It is located in downtown Woonsocket, Rhode Island,
with subsidiary restoration facilities in Foxborough, Middleton and Brookline.
The primary objectives of the Museum are the preservation, restoration and education with regard
to the technical tools and instruments used for media production and broadcasting.
The display collection is housed in a former bank building in Woonsocket. The collection spans from
the mid-1940s to current day, and is predominantly a varied array of Broadcast TV cameras and professional videotape recorders. There is also a 1940-era radio station control room under construction. The main focus for the first decade has been the careful and meticulous restoration of vintage cameras and obsolete format video recorders. There are over fifty different broadcast cameras and fifty various videotape recorders.
Several of the early 1956-era Quadruplex 2” tape recorders have been restored to operational status
and have been used to recover rare analog format programming content, migrating it to the newer digital video formats. That effort has been expanded to include the industrial small format 1/2” open-reel and cassette formats, for which there are a dozen different incompatible formats.
The Museum is currently open by appointment only, as we are on a limited staffing arrangement. We have hosted several technical meetings with the SMPTE and other technical groups where afternoon or evening seminars have been held, some of a celebratory nature related to a New England TV broadcast station’s 60th or 70th anniversary.
We have been honored to host distinguished pioneers in the technical and production fields of
broadcasting, some staying over for a week or more to personally engage on some unique restoration efforts with vintage cameras and video recorders.
It has been exciting and inspirational for the Museum volunteers to have world-class engineering
professionals come and share their technical skills and experiences in the broadcasting community over the last half-century or longer.
Many of these visitor guests come for a day or so and often bring rare items of the older technology in the form of spare parts, technical manuals and in some cases, complete cameras or VTR assemblies needed for full restoration of one we are working on.
We have been marvelously gifted in the last ten years with some wonderful visiting benefactors providing rare technology items and inspirational war stories on their use in actual broadcast situations. The real-life stories have been fabulous.
Quite expectedly, with the recent increase in digital motion picture production and episodic TV series, the awareness of our collections has brought numerous requests to use these vintage cameras, control room gear, microphones and related studio items as props on current films.
Over the years, the Museum has provided authentic equipment items as props for several
motion pictures: THE QUIZ SHOW, MALCOLM X, ISN’T SHE GREAT, CONFESSIONS OF A DANGEROUS MIND, CHAPPAQUIDDICK and many episodic TV series programs.
Most recently, the Museum was invited to provide working props for several productions underway
at the Broadway Stages complex in New York. Authentic camera systems from the mid-1960s were
requested for film projects for Netflix namely The Get Down and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.
And for Motion picture Films: YOU ARE MY FRIEND, with Tom Hanks portraying Fred Rogers, ROMEO, THE JOKE and THE LOUDEST VOICE recently completed for Showtime.
The Museum has a broad collection of period cameras and related peripherals and is excited about extending its display services to the Film/TV Community here in the Northeast, to assist in any
special studio prop needs that might require period-correct items for a particular year.
We have far-reaching contacts and vintage equipment suppliers plus the right local people and
talents to pull it all together in a package. “We Do Old Stuff Right!”
MBT Contact Persons are: Paul R. Beck, Museum Curator and President [email protected] and Thomas R. Sprague, OTO (Old Technology Officer) and Chief Engineer at National Boston [email protected]