The Vintage Radio and Communications Museum of Connecticut

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Ideas born from a place of passion have an undeniable life about them, and you can feel it when you are in their presence. The Vintage Radio and Communications Museum of Connecticut, located in a ubiquitous brick building, in Windsor, Connecticut, is one of those places.

As part of Music Appreciation Week, we thought it would be a good idea to visit the museum, which is chock-full of radios, record players, TVs, and tape recorders, not to mention the massive transmitters that send the radio waves out over the airwaves. In a nutshell, the museum is chock-full of the sound and music cabinets and living room consoles our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents used to gather around when they listened to music or took a spin on the dance floor.

The Vintage Radio and Communications Museum of Connecticut, located in Windsor,  CT, is chock full of the machines and assorted vintage devices that played tunes that were hits before your mother was born.
The Vintage Radio and Communications Museum of Connecticut, located in Windsor,  CT, is chock-full of the machines and assorted vintage devices that played tunes that were hits before your mother was born.Allan Weitz 2021

Founded and maintained entirely by volunteer radio buffs more than 30 years ago, the museum is essentially a love song to all forms of communications gear, some dating back prior to Guglielmo Marconi’s invention of the radio, in 1896.

Organized in sections and aisles sequenced by the decade going back to the mid-1800s, the radios, record players, gramophones, juke boxes, microphones, and tape recorders are wonderful to look at and read about. There are decades of radios, record players, living room entertainment consoles, as well as smaller desktop radios and smaller-yet transistor radios.

Early victrolas by Thomas Edison and other early pioneers of voice recordings.
Early Victrolas by Thomas Edison and other early pioneers of voice recordingsAllan Weitz 2021
The Vintage Radio and Communications Museum may not have the same spit-and-polish shine of your local Apple Store, but that only adds to the charm of the place. Allan Weitz

Gearheads will truly enjoy looking over large consoles with rows of dials and toggle switches, especially the oldest models. The museum has a large collection of tubes, many of which are available for purchase for restoring pre-transistor radios, tuners, and TVs.

If you’re into science fiction-like dials, tubes, and switches, you’re going to love poking around the aisles at the Vintage Radio and Communications Museum.
If you’re into science-fiction-like dials, tubes, and switches, you’re going to love poking around the aisles at the Vintage Radio and Communications Museum.Allan Weitz 2021
Allan Weitz

Some of the earliest TVs had circular screens that were only a few inches wide. To make the grainy black-and-white images easier to view, large magnifying lenses were positioned about six inches from the front the screen so more than one person could enjoy the show.

A selection of some of the earliest TVs are on display at the museum.
A selection of some of the earliest TVs are on display at the museum.Allan Weitz 2021

When radios were first introduced, in the late 1800s, not many homes had electricity, which is why many of the earliest radios were battery powered. Though well beyond being serviceable, the museum has a large collection of radio batteries from various manufacturers.

Many of the original radios were battery powered because most homes in the 1800s didn’t have electricity. Many of these batteries are on display.
Many of the original radios were battery powered because most homes in the 1800s didn’t have electricity. Many of these batteries are on display.Allan Weitz 2021

Back in the day, restaurants and bars invariably had big, colorful jukeboxes that spun 45 rpm records for as little as a nickel a pop. Some diners had smaller models at every booth. For restaurants and bars, jukeboxes were guaranteed money makers.

Allan Weitz 2021
Jukeboxes from the 1940s, '50s, and '60s fill an entire wall. Allan Weitz

Advertising posters, brochures, signage, and other radio, TV, and communications-related paraphernalia further enrich the experience. And then there’s that subtle musty smell of the past you occasionally note as you peruse the aisles that adds that final touch of authenticity to the exhibits.

Something that’s hard not to notice as you “stroll through the decades” is how music playback systems have come down in size over time. Early on, they were massive cabinets that dominated a room. Before long, larger consoles were replaced by smaller desktop models that were in turn slowly replaced by portable transistor radios, which were replaced by the Sony Walkman, the iPod, and everything that followed. Today we listen to everything and anything wirelessly from our phones.

Radios emblazoned with the likes of 1950s TV cowboy “Hopalong Cassidy” and baseball’s Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris can be counted among the many limited-edition radios on display. Allan Weitz
The evolution of movies and television along with early examples of motion picture cameras and TVs can be seen in the museum’s exhibits. Note the sound recording device mounted under the motion picture camera—this is the way pictures and sound were recorded back in the post-silent era of motion picture production.
The evolution of movies and television along with early examples of motion picture cameras and TVs can be seen in the museum’s exhibits. Note the sound-recording device mounted under the motion picture camera—this is how pictures and sound were recorded in the post-silent era of motion picture production.Allan Weitz 2021

A fully operational radio station, complete with a Foley sound-effects station, is located in the museum, and it, too, is equipped with original vintage professional broadcast gear. According to Skip Colton, one of the museum’s volunteers who was gracious enough to give me the grand tour of the museum, an older visitor who worked at a recording studio years ago said the only thing wrong with the museum’s replica studio is that the white acoustic tiles on the walls and ceiling weren’t smoke stained; they were too white.

A fully operational broadcast station complete with a vintage Foley sound effects station is located in the museum. According to a retired recording engineer who visited the museum, the only thing wrong was that the acoustic tiles weren’t tobacco smoke stained.
A fully operational broadcast station with a vintage Foley sound-effects station is located in the museum. Allan Weitz 2021

The Vintage Radio and Communications Museum of Connecticut, located in Windsor, Connecticut, is open year-round. Days and hours of operation are Thursdays and Fridays, 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and Sundays from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. The entry fee is $10, $7 for seniors (60+), and $5 for active military personnel, students, and those with special needs. Children under 5 enter free. A splendid time is guaranteed for all!

The Vintage Radio and Communications Museum of Connecticut Allan Weitz

Have you visited the Vintage Radio and Communications Museum of Connecticut or other regional gems? Share your stories with us in the Comments section, below.

And Check out Music Appreciation Week for more great music-related content.

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