The SPARK Museum of Electrical Invention (formerly the American Museum of Radio and Electricity) is an interactive museum located in Bellingham, Washington, United States, which offers educational experiences for audiences of all ages through galleries and public programs that illustrate the development and use of electricity, radio and the related inventions that changed the course of human history. The museum features a collection of artifacts showcasing four centuries of human innovation from 1580 into the 1950s.
The museum began in 1985 as an informal collection of radio sets, spare parts, schematics, recordings, and vintage magazines and manuals owned by a Bellingham resident, Jonathan Winter Winter's collection continued to grow, and by 1998, the Bellingham Antique Radio Museum was officially established, with the more than 800 radio sets from Winter's collection forming the core of the museum's collection.
The museum took on the name "American Museum of Radio and Electricity" in 2001 when it moved into its 23,000-square-foot (2,100 m2) facility and John Jenkins, a former sales and marketing executive at Microsoft, retired and became co-curator of the museum. Jenkins added his collection to the museum, which included early wireless and electrical devices, and rare books with first editions dating back to 1560 and written by Robert Boyle, Michael Faraday, C. F. du Fay, Benjamin Franklin, Luigi Galvani, William Gilbert, Joseph Henry, Heinrich Hertz, James Clerk Maxwell, Pieter van Musschenbroek, Georg Ohm, Hans Christian Ørsted, Alessandro Volta, among others.
Early in its history, the museum was featured on An American Moment. In 2012, the American Museum of Radio and Electricity became Spark Museum of Electrical Invention.
The museum's collections include:Dawn of the Electrical Age (1600–1800)
Electricity Sparks Invention (1800–1900)
The Beginning of Radio and the Wireless Era (1863–1920)
Radio Enters the Home (1920–1927)
The Golden Age of Radio (1928–1950)
Exhibits include:a reproduction of the radio room of the Titanic complete with original Marconi wireless apparatus
a working 1929 theremin and a modern Moog Theremin that visitors can play (RCA Theremin Model AR 1264, No. 200085
a complete collection of Atwater Kent "breadboard" radios
a collection of more than 10,000 vacuum tubes
one of the largest collections of 19th century electromagnetic apparatus in the country, including early telegraph, telephone, electric motors, dynamos and induction coils
a collection of electric lighting and related apparatus, including several lamps from the laboratory of Thomas Edison.
Demonstration Tesla coils including the "MegaZapper, an 8' tall 4MV coil used in the Museum's Electrical Show.
a Collins 1909 wireless telephone
a 1930s living room diorama
a static electricity learning center
a working RCA CT-100 Television
a 1915 telephone used by Henry L. Higginson in the first transcontinental telephone call.
The museum operates the low-power radio station KMRE-LP in Bellingham. KMRE-LP focuses on showcasing SPARK Museum of Electrical Invention's vast and diverse media collection featuring music from the earliest cylinder recordings of 1888 through the Golden Age of Radio. The station is also geared toward cultivating local programming that provides educational, cultural and historical value to its listeners. KMRE was granted its license by the FCC on July 19, 2006.
The museum's education program includes outreach and community education. The outreach program augments the regular science curriculum of public schools, private schools and home-school networks in Western Washington through assemblies, in-class science courses and special focus tours. The community education program holds regular Science Saturday classes, summer camps, lectures and special events illuminating core facets of radio, electricity and physics. Hands-on classes include topics such as static electricity, magnetism, motors, circuits, and crystal radios.
Additionally, the museum works directly with educators, offering courses to increase grade school teachers' comfort with and proficiency in teaching science. Teachers taking part in this program receive continued education credits (clock hours) to fulfill key professional development goals.
In 2009, the SPARK education program served nearly 4,000 students.
Aside from normal operations, the museum utilizes its Tesla Performance Center to host various events.
Past events include:The Chuckanut Radio Hour
Midnight Mystery Players
Art Of Jazz Series
Bellingham Robot Festival