Exhibit on the Influence of the Radio Opens Friday

The Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments’ new exhibit examining the history and influence of radio technology on American culture will open to the public on Friday.

Entitled “Radio Contact: Tuning in to Politics, Technology, & Culture,” the exhibition centers around the themes of tinkering, broadcasting, and listening.

The initial planning for the exhibit started about nine months ago. The exhibit was inspired by the large collection of radio items acquired by David P. Wheatland ’22, the founding curator of the Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments.

Collection curator Sara Schechner expressed her admiration of Wheatland and his collection.

“He always impresses me when I go through the collection, that he had thought to save something,” Schechner said. “I was in a state of wonderment that he had... an exquisite talent for knowing what would be important in the future.”


There are about 100 objects on display in the exhibit, representing approximately ten percent of the material in the radio collection. Other featured objects were gathered from various sources including Harvard’s Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Florida International University’s Wolfsonian Museum, and the Hopi Radio station in Arizona.

Mia K. Metivier, an administrative assistant in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences’ Gen Ed program, researched and curated the broadcasting section of the exhibit. Although the objects on display have technical aspects and historical backgrounds with which viewers may be unfamiliar, she said that anyone could gain something from visiting the exhibit.

“We’ve done a great job of making it really approachable,” Metivier said.

Halsey Burgund and Michael J. Grasso ’97 worked on the listening section of the exhibit, which includes a six-speaker sound installation and interactive radio that fills the room with a soundscape called “Faint Earth Murmur.”

While the interactive radio’s exterior was created in the 1940s, the interior components were 3D-printed with modern technology. Visitors can tune the radio to different “stations” that feature themes such as news, politics, entertainment, sports, and music.

“You have this idea of being able to tune in and out of stations and listen to different things that are floating around in the air and this radio device makes them come to life in this magic way,” Burgund said. “When you have audio in here, it seems like all of the machines all sort of come to life.”

According to Schechner, the rich history of radio technologies was a motivating factor behind the exhibition.

“Radio is still alive and evolving. It’s had this very long and diverse history and it’s partly what we’re trying to capture here in this show,” she said.

—Staff writer Maria H. Park can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @Chirpark.