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  • 1.  Use of Collections

    Posted 08-13-2020 04:11 PM

    Our museum focuses on historical audio equipment.  We would like to develop "period listening rooms" where audio systems of the past can be auditioned.  Naturally it will require a responsible operator on the volume control!  Eventually all audio equipment will fail. 

    It could be compared to a car museum that turns on the engine.  It might be to just demonstrate the sound, or it could be running the car around the parking lot, or even entering it into an "historical race".  The latter would accelerate failure!

    Should this situation be specifically outlined in our collections management policy?  Any insight would be appreciated.

    Jim Hunter, Curator KHMA


  • 2.  RE: Use of Collections

    Posted 08-14-2020 10:06 AM

    Hello Jim!

    It would be in the best interest of the institution to have these "listening rooms" outlined within the collections management policy in some capacity. Of importance, would the audio devices (and perhaps media) being used be non-accessioned or accessioned? The limitations on use may vary greatly depending on that classification.

    Any access to a collection (or non-public area, if applicable) should also be outlined in the policy. We have our policies listed under a "Research Section," which includes access to the Research Library and other collections areas. If these rooms are more along the lines of exhibition space (i.e. direct public access) then they would fall under the Exhibition portion of your collection management policies. In this case, a great resource may be reviewing some collections management samples from science museums, children's museums and historical homes that have interactive modalities as part of exhibitions.  

    I hope some of this information is helpful. Best of luck - this idea sounds great! 

    -Shaleigh Howells, Assistant Registrar, The Valentine
    (Opinions are my own and not the views of my employer.)

    Shaleigh Howells
    Assistant Registrar
    The Valentine
    Richmond VA

  • 3.  RE: Use of Collections

    Posted 08-18-2020 10:07 AM
    Thanks to all responders!  Clearly there is much to consider by our fledgling museum.  

    Jim Hunter, Curator KHMA

    Jim Hunter
    Klipsch Heritage Museum Association
    Hope AR

  • 4.  RE: Use of Collections

    Posted 08-14-2020 11:19 AM

    This doesn't answer your question directly, but I wanted to warn you about something we discovered. We were a small radio and electricity museum in a small town in Northwest Washington. We built a 1930s listening room at our museum. It featured a 1935 Console radio and a custom designed player that would play snippets of 1930s programs such as war of the worlds, the Lone Ranger, etc. Each program was at a different frequency on the dial, so visitors could have the experience of tuning the radio, something you don't see much these days.

    After running the exhibit for a year or so, we received a visit from a representative of ASCAP. He informed us that we were due royalties not only For the future, but for the last year. We objected, citing fair use, etc. they said if we didn't pay what they demanded, They'd sue us. A little research online showed that they usually win these suits. Unfortunately the fee was too high for us to be able to afford it, so we shut down the exhibit. We still had to pay for the previous year. 

    John Jenkins
    SPARK Museum of Electrical Invention
    Bellingham WA

  • 5.  RE: Use of Collections

    Posted 08-14-2020 11:52 AM
    Seems to me you could record the older pieces playing in digital format.  Then display the older piece with newer technology (button/motion) where the audience can, by themselves, learn how the different pieces sounded and how audio equipment has changed what we hear over time.  This would be an overall cost savings as you would not need someone to run the equipment or repair damaged artifacts.  The artifacts would only be used long enough to create the recording so it will "live" longer as well.

    One of my first exhibits at SMCHA was on the Loma Prieta earthquake and I had news footage playing on a loop in an 80s living room scene.  This was playing on a hidden DVD player back then but displayed was a VHS tape player with a bunch of old popular VHS tapes.  I don't know how many times I had to remove Raiders of the Lost Ark from the VHS player!  If you do it well, you can create the illusion of the old piece playing the audio without actually having the old piece playing the audio.

    Best of luck and I hope this helps.

    Dana Neitzel, Curator
    San Mateo County Historical Association
    2200 Broadway
    Redwood City, CA 94063