Museum help preserve programs

If you’ve ever wanted to get hold of a program from television or radio but have been unable to find it after looking everywhere imaginable, the chances are that you’ve never visited the Museum of Television and Radio in Beverly Hills.

With an immense archive of more than 120,000 pieces of television and radio programming from the beginning of radio and television history, the museum’s video library is its main attraction.

Here, a visitor may watch footage of the Hindenburg disaster and an old episode of “MASH” in one sitting.

The archives include sitcoms, cartoons, news programming, documentaries and original commercials.

“(The library) is the heart of the museum and the people who use it are people in the entertainment industry as they research their projects; two weeks ago, we had Leonardo DiCaprio here doing research,” Dawn Moreno-Freedman, director of visitor and staff services, said.

Visitors may also experience a few exhibits featured at the museum.

These features include a movie theater with clips from television, a radio station with a listening room and a temporary exhibit, the current one being “Rock is Fifty” dedicated to rock ‘n’ roll.

“It’s pretty cool, but it needs more stuff…more trivia about rock ‘n’ roll and famous people; this looks like it’s all ’50s,” Ron Hoover, a musician visiting from Sacramento, said.

Hoover was visiting the “Rock is Fifty” exhibit, on display until July 10 that showcases Gibson guitars, vintage posters of artists like Chuck Berry and Little Richard and video displays and photos.

“When people come to our museum, many times they are confused because what they want to see is memorabilia; they want to see old television sets. They want to see clothing; they want to see something,” Freedman said.

“But what we do here is we preserve programming and we offer it to the public, and those become our displays and our exhibits,” he said.

The museum has its own working radio station, sometimes used for live broadcasts which are open to the public.

Next to the studio is the Ahmanson Radio Listening Room, which has chairs and headphones where visitors may listen to old radio programming.

Original paintings by Al Hirschfeld, an artist who drew caricatures of television stars, are hung in the hallways of the museum. Some of these portraits include the cast of “60 Minutes” and the characters of “Star Trek.”

“I love it; I come here every time I’m in town,” Tory Leviton, visiting from Denver, said.

“I can watch my favorite old episodes of television like ‘Saturday Night Live;’ usually there’s new programming that wasn’t here last time.”

The museum was founded in 1975 by William S. Paley, who was president of CBS and ran its radio and television divisions and was influential in developing new programming, including “I Love Lucy.”

As television and radio grew, Paley noticed that media companies and studios were destroying their programming, throwing away film to save space or just taping over old shows.

“He noticed that TV and radio were too important to our culture in a way; it had such a strong impact in the world of pop culture…what he realized was, and he had the foresight and vision, was that it would become part of our history,” Freedman said.

Museum artifacts, including audio and visual material, have been donated by media companies and studios for viewing inside the library.

The only way for someone to take home programming is to pay for it at $700 a minute, which Freedman said she has never seen.

“Many times people come here and their stories are very touching; adults will come here and say ‘My parents met on the Dating Game’ or ‘My mom was on this TV show and do you have it?’… they can’t leave with it,” Freedman said.

Besides industry insiders or tourists, another large part of the visiting pie comes from students, ranging from high school to the college level. Other visitors are just fans of radio and television, Freedman said.

“They’re here all the time and they know the collection better than we do,” Freedman said.

Located in the heart of Beverly Hills, near landmarks like Rodeo Drive and the Beverly Hilton, the museum was designed and built eight years ago by the famed designer Richard Meier, the same person who built and designed the J. Paul Getty Museum. The structure contains a lot of marble, natural light, tall ceilings and earth tones.

“I think it has a beautiful layout, but I think it’s better if you’re an insider doing research as opposed to a layperson who wants to go to a normal museum,” Amelia Arsenault, a USC student, said. “The library upstairs is great; it has a huge collection.”

Museum

Telephone: (310) 786- 1025 for daily activities; (310) 786-1000 for other information.

Hours: The Museum is open Wednesdays through Sundays from 12:00 to 5:00 p.m. The Museum is closed on Mondays, Tuesdays.

Admission: Free, with a suggested contribution of $8 for students; parking is free for two hours with validation.

Policies: No Photogaphy or audio recording, food or drinks allowed.