The Museum of Broadcasting offers guests more than 10,000 "oldie" radio programs and about 10,000 television shows from the so-called Golden Age. It is the only museum of its kind in the United States.
Opened in 1975, the museum also has a massive collection of about 3,000 rare radio-production scripts (with handwritten alterations) available on microfiche.
Shows include classic radio programs by Fred Allen, Jack Benny and Eddie Cantor. Television features include Jackie Gleason, Sid Caesar, Imogene Coca and Milton Berle.
Among the most popular radio shows are Edward R. Murrow's "This is London" World War II broadcasts, former President Franklin D. Roosevelt's "Fireside Chats," the famous eyewitness account of the Hindenburg explosion and Arthur Godfrey's morning disc-jockey shows on CBS.
Top TV Choices
Topping the TV list are such dramas as "Marty" and "Requiem for a Heavyweight," the NBC Symphony Orchestra concerts (under Arturo Toscanini's exacting baton) and the Ed Sullivan shows. Also ranked high are "Fibber McGee & Molly," "Gunsmoke" and "Dragnet."
Museum president Robert Batscha said: "You probably can't name a show we don't have. We are constantly adding several thousand hours of programming every year. What the public sees are copies of master tapes that are in permanent storage someplace else."
The library on the third floor contains programs cross-referenced in 25 ways, including title, subject, cast, network and time period.
On a first-come, first-served basis, visitors can use one of the 23 videocassette consoles. Although there is no admission charge for the museum at 1 East 53rd St., suggested contributions are $3 for adults and $1.50 for senior citizens and children.
The museum is open Wednesday to Saturday from noon to 5 p.m., Tuesday from noon to 8 p.m. (closed Sunday and Monday).
Membership, open to everyone, gives you a priority on the consoles. You also receive a monthly journal of museum activities. Cost is $30 a year. People living outside a 50-mile radius of New York City pay $25.
The museum has a 63-seat auditorium and two video rooms with seats for 40. There are often special shows or public lectures featuring famous stars and directors. The presentations include the work of one comedian, one writer or one series.
Not long ago the museum drew 1,000 people a day after several "lost" episodes of "The Honeymooners" were unearthed.
To dig out such lost treasures, museum officers put up a poster listing vintage programs that are still being sought:
"The Kate Smith Hour" from 1953 or 1954; Damon Runyon Memorial Fund Telethon of 1949; opening of the 1939 New York World's Fair with President Roosevelt; Texaco Star Theater from June to December, 1948; first Super Bowl (1967); original production of Gian Carlo Menotti's opera, "Amahl and the Night Visitors"; Ernie Kovacs' first TV series, originating from station WPTZ in Philadelphia (1950-51), and some of the running banter between Bing Crosby and Bob Hope on various shows in the 1940s, '50s and '60s.