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Editorial: Let’s hope 3rd time’s the charm for broadcast museum

The Board Commissioners launched early voting for Illinois Primary newest early voting place Museum Broadcast Communications 360 N. State. The

The Board of Commissioners launched early voting for the Illinois Primary at the newest early voting place, the Museum of Broadcast Communications at 360 N. State. The third floor of the museum will be finished with the history of televison broadcasting. | Al Podgorski~Chicago Sun-Times

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Updated: July 14, 2012 6:27AM

The Museum of Broadcast Communications could be a character that stepped right out of one of its old radio scripts. It’s struggled against stiff odds for more than 20 years, and more challenges await in future episodes.

The good news for now is that the museum will reopen Wednesday in a new $27 million home on State Street just north of Marina City. It’s the museum’s third home, and we’re hoping the third one will be a charm.

A success story would be good not only for the institution, but Chicago as well if
the museum attracts a healthy number of tourists. In its previous location at the Chicago Cultural Center, the museum drew 200,000 visitors annually, said Chuck Schaden, who for 29 years hosted a radio program about radio history called “Those Were the Days.”

That’s partly because the city and broadcast history are strongly linked, he said.

“In the early days of radio broadcasting, Chicago was a major hub, and it was the same thing in the late 1940s and early 1950s for television,” said Schaden, a former museum board member.

The 62,000-
square-foot building at 360 N. State has working radio and television studios, an education center and memorabilia ranging from Edgar Bergen’s ventriloquist dummy, Charlie McCarthy, to the door Oprah used to make her entrance every day on her show. It’s just one of three such broadcast museums in the nation.

One plot twist in the museum’s future is a funding shortfall that has left the museum in debt. Another is that one of its key early missions — giving people a place where they could see or listen to old broadcasts — is increasingly being supplanted by material available online.

Here’s hoping for a happy ending. Stay tuned.

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