Electronics museum doubles its space ANNE ARUNDEL EDUCATION

January 04, 1993|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,Staff Writer

Vacuum tubes and radar components, telecommunications equipment and more electronic gizmos than you could imagine are on display at the Historical Electronics Museum in Linthicum.

And now all those gadgets are comfortably housed in 11,000 square feet of a Westinghouse warehouse on West Nursery Road, next to the BWI Marriott at Friendship Square.

The museum now has nearly twice as much space as it had at the Westinghouse Electronics Systems Groups offices it used to occupy on Elkridge Landing Road. But there is still room to display only half of its holdings at one time, said Betsy Hall, the museum director.

She expects the new quarters to attract more than the 3,500 visitors who strolled through last year to look at exhibits such as the SCR-270 radar antenna, the one that detected Japanese bombers as they approached Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, Ms. Hall said.

"Already, we're getting a lot of visitors who are people who are bored in the area hotels," she said.

About half of the visitors are students, many on school trips, Ms. Hall said. As a result, the museum wants to increase its emphasis on education, she said.

Museum officials hope to convince young people that electrical engineering can offer an exciting and challenging career. "Children who look at radio and TVs wonder how you could possibly make it work," Ms. Hall said. "Part of our purpose is to show them that you can do it."

The museum has several hands-on exhibits and plans to add more, she said. Visitors can telegraph messages from one part of the museum to another, code and decode messages with a cipher machine and observe their voice patterns on an oscilloscope.

The museum also wants to add new exhibits showing commercial uses of electronics technology, Ms. Hall said. Currently, much of the focus is on military applications because such equipment is easier to come by, she said.

"A radar detector would be a good way to show the use of radar," Ms. Hall said.

The museum, founded in 1980 to preserve historic electronics technology, was opened to the public in 1983 with a large number of radar exhibits, such as an SCR-594 radar system like the ones used in World War II air battles over Britain and Italy.

A large portion of the museum traces the history of radar developments from 1935 to 1985. It also has one of two remaining lunar television cameras made to record the first moon landing, and two satellites on loan from the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.

There are displays on microwave theory, telegraphy, ciphering and phonographs.

Many of the exhibits were donated by the U.S. government, Westinghouse and individuals in the electronics field.

"You'd be surprised the things people have in their basements," Ms. Hall said.

Westinghouse, the museum's main patron, donated the space for the museum. A group of volunteers, many of them retired engineers, helps catalog items and writes the texts on the displays.

The museum is open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. the first Saturday of each month and by appointment. Admission is free.

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