West Chester museum improving historic building to boost hours

The Voice of America Museum board has been sprucing up the historic building and beefing up staff so the museum can be open for business every weekend year-round and offer more to patrons.

VOA Board Vice President Chris Wunnenberg said recently the main exhibit hall has been remodeled, with new paint, carpet and tile laid and air conditioning installed. Officials are working on wi-fi capability for the entire VOA park and more.

He said the museum used to only be open one weekend per month, but last year upped their hours to every weekend. He said they have begun a partnership with Miami University professors “to improve the museum exhibits and displays.”

“We think if you come down on a regular basis you’ll actually see exhibits changing and the area improving,” Wunnenberg said.

RELATED: West Chester museum renovation to honor VOA’s worldwide influence

The VOA-Bethany station transmitted VOA news to Europe during World War II and South America during the Cold War. The Bethany station was decommissioned by the federal government in 1994, after shortwave radio technology was supplanted by television and satellite technology.

Situated along Tylersville Road, the art deco-style museum and its technology served as the main conduit for the United States to present news, entertainment and educational programming from actual press agencies to people worldwide seeking facts instead of state-fed propaganda.

A unique event that centers on the Golden Age of radio is part of the museum’s coming programming. Cincinnati radio historian, WMKV producer and sound effects artist Mike Martini, who is also president of the National Voice of America’s Museum of Broadcasting’s Media Heritage Collection, will present “Theater of the Mind: Sound Effects During Radio’s Golden Age” on Tuesday, April 9 from 7 to 8:30 p.m.

Martini told the Journal-News he will “do a mini-radio show recreation” with some audience participation.

“I’ll talk about the history of sound effects in radio, why it was important, who were some of the big players,” Martini said. “Then I will demonstrate some of the more common effects and some of the more unusual effects. I probably have 30 or 40 effects I’ll bring out.”

He said some of the effects used the past were real, like a door slamming, but radio show producers created things like an elevator door closing using metal roller skates.

The event is free — donations are encouraged — but seating is limited. The VOA museum is open Saturday and Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m. at 8070 Tylersville Road. General admission is $5 for adults and $1 for children.

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