The Museum is a work in progress. Volunteers are lovingly and expertly are crafting new exhibits and experiences to interpret the history of the Voice of America at Bethany Relay Station. You can visit the Museum Saturday and Sunday from 1PM to 4 PM. Volunteer docents are available to answer your questions. Some volunteers were part of the Bethany Station when it was operational and can relate personal stories and experiences.
The Main exhibits at the Museum deal with the history of the Bethany Station and the Voice of America.
There are also two new exhibits.
Powel Crosley and the Voice of America
Made possible in part by a grant from the W. E. Smith Family Charitable Trust
The question of why the Voice of America Bethany Relay Station was constructed on a hill top outside of Cincinnati can be answered in two words - Powel Crosley.
When President Roosevelt began to plan for high power radio stations able to reach all parts of the world with information about the United States, he turned to Crosley and his corps of pioneering engineers to make it happen. Crosley had already constructed and operated WLW at 500,000 watts making it the most powerful in the world. He also operated WLWO, a high power shortwave station, beaming programming to Europe.
The engineering team was up to the task and built from scratch six 250,000 watt transmitters and 24 antenna arrays capable of reaching millions of listeners in Europe, North and South Africa and South America.
The level of technology innovation that took place in this building beginning in 1943 is as groundbreaking as any now being accomplished in Silicon Valley.
Crosley was a prolific inventor and innovator and his interests went well beyond radio. He manufactured an extensive line of home appliances including the iconic Shelvador refrigerator and ranges, washing machines and even complete kitchen cabinet installations.
One of the hallmarks of Crosley’s appliance product line was his keen sensitivity to the consumer both pre and post-Depression. He pioneered the establishment of a network of independent local dealers as the best way to take his products to market. He insisted that these dealers provide the consumer high quality parts, service, and satisfaction. His products were often less expensive than other name brands, but were backed by Crosley's money back guarantee. This became a precedent for some of today’s sales practices.
Many of the appliances were manufactured at the Arlington Street complex or in later years, by companies like Electolux and Whirlpool.
The exhibit is the most comprehensive collection of Crosley’s life work. It is open every Saturday and Sunday from 1 – 4 PM.
Radio Lab - From Greeks to Geeks
Made possible in part by a grant from the Charles H. Dater Foundation
There are three partner organizations making the Museum their home:
The Voice of America Exhibit
When you first arrive don't miss watching our award winning documentary video. It summarizes the history and importance of the Voice of America and,more specifically, the Bethany Relay Station, home of the Museum.
From there you will be ushered into the main control room where you can see first hand how operators controlled the six high power transmitters and switched between programming in more than 20 languages.
Above - Circa 1950 Control Desk in the Transmitter Room
Below - Circa 1966 Control Room
Right -The facility once boasted six of the most powerful radio transmitters on earth. The vintage Crosley-built behemoths are long gone but you can still view one of the 1960 vintage Collins transmitters on your tour.
Below - The six transmitters were connected to dozens of large antennas spread across a one square mile area. Some of the concrete tower bases can still be seen in the adjacent Butler County MetroPark located at the rear of the Museum. Many people remember seeing these towers as they drove on Interstate 75.
Right - You can still see up close the Antenna Switching Matrix at the rear of the museum building. These switches allowed the various antenna arrays to target the radio signals to specific areas in Europe, North Africa and South America. Be sure to walk out to see it up close when you visit.
During your tour be sure to drop into the "Ham Shack." Members of the West Chester Amateur Radio Association are on hand to demonstrate some of the amateur radio equipment still transmitting from Bethany Station.
Volunteer docents are on hand in the Media Heritage and Gray History of Wireless exhibit areas. There you can relive some memories of radio and TV in the tri-sate area as well as learning about the pioneers in the development of radio technology.