December 2007 Issue
Step into the Early Television Museum in Hilliard and enter a time when Reality TV was confined to the nightly news, changing channels was not a remote-control maneuver and high-definition depended upon viewer prowess with antennas shaped like rabbit ears.
“The museum gives people a chance to see the past unfold right in front of their eyes,” says curator Steve McVoy, who opened his establishment seven years ago in order to share his collection with other enthusiasts. The 64-year-old’s passion for TVs past began during the 1950s, when he worked in a repair shop after school.
“I became fascinated with the way the sets worked,” he says. “I was amazed to find out that television pre-dated World War II.”
McVoy was so tuned in he began acquiring TV sets. As friends spread the word about his interest, he received invitations to stop by attics, garages and basements to search for finds.
“My collection quickly got out of hand,” McVoy says with a chuckle. “I realized I couldn’t invite the public to my basement to see these sets.” McVoy renovated a former warehouse, which provides the perfect backdrop for the 200 sets displayed there (100 more are in storage). The skills McVoy acquired as a teen helped him restore many of the sets in the museum, a process he admits is time-consuming and painstaking.
“It can be difficult tracking down the parts,” admits McVoy, a stickler for making sure the rejuvenated sets mirror their original look as much as possible, right down to the underside, which the public doesn’t see.
He points with pride to a British 382-RG, dating back to 1938, an elaborate component system, complete with 12-inch TV screen, phonograph and radio encased in intricately designed wooden cabinetry. Other focal points include a black-and-white TV from 1951 that came packaged with a color-wheel adapter and a mobile television production truck dating to 1948.