About the Museum
The National Capital Radio & Television Museum operates in Bowie, Maryland, and also curates continuing exhibits elsewhere. Opened in 1999, the Museum is open to visitors three days a week.
Explore radio from Marconi’s earliest wireless telegraph to the primitive crystal sets of the 1920s, from Depression-era cathedral radios and post-War plastic portables to the development of radio with pictures (a.k.a. television). The Museum is located in the 1906 Harmel House, an old storekeeper’s residence in the village of Mitchellville, a section of modern south Bowie. In conjunction with the City of Bowie, The National Capital Radio & Television Museum presents the history of broadcasting, a medium which so dramatically shaped our lives from the 1920s to today.
History of the Museum
In 1984 a number of antique radio collectors in the Washington/Baltimore area formed a hobby group called the Mid-Atlantic Antique Radio Club (MAARC). MAARC has thrived and today is an active club of some 600 members and publishes a monthly journal.
Soon after MAARC’s founding, club members began exploring the possibility of creating a museum to share their interest in vintage radio with the general public. Several possibilities were investigated but it became clear that to be successful, a separate organization dedicated to the task of creating and operating a museum. The resulting Radio & Television Museum (R&T Museum) operated by the Radio History Society, Inc. (now the National Capital Radio & Television Museum [NCRTV Museum]) is a Maryland non-profit corporation established in 1993 for the express purpose of creating a museum of radio and television. R&T Museum sought and received IRS 501(c)(3) nonprofit status.
Starting with no building, no funds, no collection, and only a handful of dedicated volunteers, the Museum began by borrowing artifacts from local radio collectors and mounting temporary exhibits in several of the region’s public libraries, downtown at the George Washington University, and at the City Place Mall in Silver Spring, Maryland. Efforts sought an affordable building in which to create a permanent museum.
In 1998 the Society learned of a century-old former farmhouse in Bowie, Maryland, that was owned and had been refurbished by the City of Bowie. The fully restored building is located at the intersection of Mitchellville and Mount Oak Roads, conveniently located just off of Route 50 and the D.C. Beltway, east of Washington, D.C. After a visit, Museum leadership determined it might be suitable for creation of a museum. The Society’s officers made a presentation to the Bowie City Council, after which the city manager agreed to a long-term lease agreement with Society. In March 1999, then-President Ed Walker and the City of Bowie signed the long-term lease agreement for the Radio & Television Museum (pictured below). The Museum opened its doors to the public in June 1999, and celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2019.
In recent years it became increasingly evident that the two entities: Radio History Society and the Radio & Television Museum were confusing. Consequently, in 2011 the board determined to change the organization to the National Capital Radio & Television Museum, doing away with the Society and the old Radio & Television Museum. The name change was publicly announced on May 9, 2012. In addition, the board brought on its first paid professional staff in mid-2011.
This mutually beneficial public-private partnership continues today. The building and grounds continue to be maintained by the city, while NCRTV Museum operates the museum.
In other partnering, the Museum also has developed exhibits at the George Washington University (since 2001), and at the Library of American Broadcasting at the University of Maryland.
Our Very First Press Release from 1999
Radio History Society Signs Agreement with City of Bowie for Broadcast Museum
Radio History Society, a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of radio and television broadcast history has signed a multi-year agreement with the City of Bowie, Maryland to establish a museum. Radio History Society president, Ed Walker said, “We are delighted that our dream of a world-class broadcast museum is finally becoming a reality. We will soon have a permanent location to provide a window into the history of broadcasting, open to the public, the community and broadcast historians.”
Stephen Patrick, curator of Bowie’s museums commented, “The City of Bowie is very excited about the soon-to-be Radio-Television Museum which will be housed in a fully-restored turn-of-the-century building. They have wonderful collections of radio sets from the teens, ’20s, ’30s, and ’40s along with early television receivers and local broadcast memorabilia. This is a very exciting project and we’re really looking forward to the opening.”
The Radio-Television Museum will be open to the public on weekends beginning June 12 and by appointment during the week for school groups and other special occasions. Admission to the facility will be free although donations will be encouraged. RHS is a totally volunteer organization under an IRS 501(c)(3) non-profit charter. As such, all contributions of money or historic items may be fully tax-deductible as a charitable contribution. RHS encourages everyone with an interest in broadcast history and technology to support this Radio-TV Museum either as a volunteer or a contributor or both. For further information, contact RHS at 301-390-1020 or visit the RHS web site www.radiohistory.org and leave an email. The Radio-Television Museum is located at 2608 Mitchellville Road, Bowie, Maryland.