Mount Vernon Museum of Incandescent Lighting

BEHIND THE SCENES

January 31, 1999|By Karin Remesch

Mission: To educate the public about the history and development of the electric light bulb and to preserve and display in chronological order a collection of light bulbs that ranges from Edison's earliest attempts at commercial illumination to the present. Artifacts include the world's largest bulb, 50,000 watts and 4 feet high, and the smallest, designed for NASA and viewed only under a 50-power microscope. The collection also includes the first 1906 tungsten bulb, four of the bases of Edison's 1879 bulbs, and the first U.S. patent issued to Edison for a bamboo filament light bulb. Also on display are some of the most unusual decorative light bulbs ever manufactured -- crosses, stars, grape clusters and flower bouquets. Founded by Dr. Hugh Francis Hicks in 1964, the museum is home to 8,000 light bulbs selected for display from Hicks' collection of more than 60,000. The collection is considered the largest in the world.

Latest accomplishment: The acquisition of early stage lighting from St. John's College in Annapolis. The equipment, dating to the turn of the century, was acquired with assistance from the Smithsonian Institution

On the horizon: Incorporation of the museum and expansion to provide additional space for permanent and satellite exhibits. The museum is now housed on the garden level of a five-story brownstone townhouse on Mount Vernon Square. Plans are to take over the entire building, install elevators and make it wheelchair-accessible

About the museum: Attendance: 6,000 annually.

Where and when: 717 Washington Place (Charles Street). Hours: 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. the first Thursday of every month; and daily by appointment. Admission is free, but donations are accepted. Call 410-752-8586 or 410-323-3454.

Dr. Hugh Hicks, founder and curator of the museum: "This is the only museum in the world that covers the whole history of the light bulb. And when we can teach the public, especially our schoolchildren, about the most important industrial development -- the light bulb -- then we are fulfilling our mission. Without the light bulb there would be no space travel, no air travel, no television, and no electronic video games. ... My ambition at present and hopes for the future are the incorporation of the museum to preserve it for further generations -- just as the Walters Art Gallery and the Maryland Historical Society."

Pub Date: 01/31/99

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