It’s electronic! The National Electronics Museum

A camera just like this one was used to capture the moon landings for the folks back at home on earth.

A camera just like this one was used to capture the moon landings for the folks back at home on earth. Photo courtesy of the National Electronics Museum.

A guest post by Gina Truitt

NEMbuttons

A control panel from a recent exhibit on weather satellite systems.

Electronics may not make the world go round, but they certainly define our modern lives. A little museum near the Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport celebrates everything electronic from the light bulb to the famous Enigma Machine.

The National Electronics Museum focuses primarily on military technology, though some exhibits feature objects that affect everyday life, particularly communications and space. There are several objects to keep an eye out for.

In the Communications Gallery, there is an Enigma Machine on loan from the NSA’s National Cryptologic Museum. As spy novel fans probably already know, the Enigma Machine used electricity to operate rotators that encoded and decoded messages for Nazi Germany during World War II.

An Enigma Machine

An Enigma Machine on loan from the National Cryptologic Museum.

The museum, which was started by employees of Westinghouse, are has also some rare objects you won’t find anywhere else. One example is the Moon Camera. Westinghouse designed the camera used to beam the first images from the moon in July of 1969.  The camera that did the heavy lifting all those years ago is, unfortunately, still on the moon, but one in the museum is a close relative that never got to make the trip.

In addition to objects from nearly every decade of the last century, hands-on exhibits scattered throughout the museum illustrate electronic concepts and technologies. In the fundamentals gallery there are recordings stretching back to Caruso, an early 20th century opera singer, that you can listen to. A light-up house  illustrates how electronics have changed and grown in the last 100 years. In the infrared gallery, there is a video display where you can see for yourself how infrared and regular video cameras “see” differently.

The radar array at the National Electronics Museum will point the way to the museum.

The radar array at the National Electronics Museum will point the way to the museum.

Find radar fascinating? Outside, there are radar receivers and dishes too big to fit inside the museum, including an SCR-270, an early system from WW II, a Wurzburg dish, and a receiver from the Nike Ajax system, a Cold War defense system. In nice weather, it’s fun to take a walk or have a picnic lunch around all this old equipment. Just remember, that, even though there are ladders all over the equipment, it is unsafe to climb on them.

The museum also hosts plenty of events to inspire the young scientist — and certainly interest those involved in STEM courses.  Young Engineers and Scientists Seminars (YESS) continue through October on Wednesday evenings at 6:30.

The museum is open from 9 to 2 Monday through Friday and 10 to 2 on Saturday. And, yes, they are open during the government shut-down. Adults are $3, students and seniors are $1, children 5 and under are free.

The National Electronics Museum is just off I-295 near BWI, and pretty easy to find.

Gina Truitt, who shoots many of the photos used on this blog, is an employee of the National Electronics Museum. She talks about the exhibits so much, I asked her to write about some of her favorite objects.

© Text and photos Mary K. Tilghman
Photos by Gina Truitt

nemphones

Yes, kids, this is what we used to use to make telephone calls. How quaint.

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