AWA Museum’s History

Below is a brief review of the Antique Wireless Museum’s evolving history as a facility to collect and present communication technology. Although not initially envisioned as a public museum, the many year’s of hard work on the part of the membership, it has become a world class facility.

The Beginning

This all started in the mid-1930s when Bruce Kelley, a young Kodak engineer and amateur radio operator, began collecting old wireless radio apparatus, models, scientific papers and radio ephemera dating from the 1880s, some of it used by inventors like Marconi and Edison.  Kelley recognized the need to preserve wireless history long before any major museum did.

Kelley and fellow ham radio amateurs and collectors formed the Antique Wireless Association in 1952 and started a small museum in a Spencerport, NY barn.  In 1958 Kelley moved, and AWA opened its first “old time radio museum” in his Holcomb, New York carriage house.  The museum was moved to a location in the 180 year old Bloomfield Historical Society Academy Building in 1975. In 2013, the new Antique Wireless Museum was opened at 6925 Route 5 & 20 on the Thomas Peterson, Jr. Antique Wireless Museum and Research Campus.  Below is a quick review of those stages of the evolution.

Our First Museum

It all began in a barn at Bruce Kelley’s home in Spencerport in 1952. Three men’s passion for collecting radios and electronic equipment that became the AWA. From that humble beginning the AWA has grown into an organization of nearly 1,200 members worldwide.

Our Second Museum

When Bruce Kelley moved to Holcomb, New York in 1958, the museum moved with him into the carriage house on his property.

Our Third Museum

 As the collection continued to grow it became apparent that the carriage house was not big enough. Negotiations with the Bloomfield Historical Society led to leasing of 1,800 square feet in the 1838 Bloomfield Academy Building.

In 1975, after redevelopment, the Antique Wireless Museum moved into what would become its home for the next 38 years.

Over time, the Expanded Storage Annex

As the international reputation of AWA grew, so did the donations to the collection.  Faced with a burgeoning storage problem, in 1981 the AWA purchased property from the VFW on Route 5 & 20 across from what would become the future home of the Antique Wireless Museum and built a large storage building. 

Until 2011, with several additions, what became known as the Annex housed the continuously growing collection and AWA operations. The Annex was sold to the Town of East Bloomfield in 2009 to become part of their new Veteran’s Park.

Now, the Fourth Generation Museum

The Thomas Peterson Jr. Antique Wireless Museum and Research Campus

Faced with a Museum and Annex bursting at the seams with a world-class collection of artifacts and ephemera, and an Academy Museum which was too small to properly display our collection and not ADA accessible, the AWA embarked on an ambitious project: to build a new world-class Museum and Research Campus in Bloomfield, New York.

With great foresight and generosity, Tom Peterson, AWA Director, purchased three buildings on nearly 2 acres of land which have become the Antique Wireless Museum and Research Campus.  Two of the buildings, the Dr. Max Bodmer Media Center and the AWA Staging Building were redeveloped and placed into operation to support the development of the new Museum.

The Max Bodmer Library and Media Center
The Technical Center

Ultimately, the Antique Wireless Museum will comprise 10,000 square feet of exhibits and auditorium.  The first phase, 3,600 square feet, was opened May 4, 2013 and the Grand Opening and Dedication Ceremony was held August 20, 2013.  

The display area has been expanding and plans have been made to add an amateur radios “shack” and ultimately a theatre facility.

What began over 6 decades ago is evolving into the world’s premier and most important communication and entertainment technology history museum.  We are sure that the three founders would be quite amazed.