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The Musée des ondes Emile Berliner, a site specific industrial museum

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9:00 AM, Mardi 30 Août 2022 (20 minutes)
The Musée des ondes Emile Berliner (MOEB) is a site-specific technical history museum dedicated to sound recording and electromagnetic wave technology. The museum is located on the premise of the Berliner Gram-o-phone company with a specific interest in the history of the building, the companies that resulted from the Berliner Gram-o-phone, such as the Victor Talking Machine, RCA Victor, Spar Aerospace and MDA, and the building’s surrounding. In the late 1960s, RCA built a second facility on Montreal island, moving operations slowly out of the older building. The MOEB was founded in 1992 by five history enthusiasts and run by volunteers for the first 22 years. During this time, the building converted from a mostly vacant place to a mixed used office complex, known as Edifice RCA. While the initial agreement allowed the museum basically rent-free space, due to changes in ownership and the conversion of the site, in 2014, the owners requested a commercial rent. This forced the MOEB in 2015 to decide to either close its doors or to make a move towards professionalizing the museum. The professionalization process is still ongoing. The combination of a museum in a former industrial site has become common. Establishing associated industrial museums in conjunction with former or still operating factories is somewhat obvious and most countries have several of such museums inside their boarders. How does the MOEB fit into this model and what distinguishes it from other similar museums? How does the historic narrative convey visitors of the relevance of the site-specific mission? What were the initial and what are the current challenges to operate the MOEB in a building that is going through a dynamic gentrification process? How important are networks with other similar or like-minded organizations and which networks and collaborations have helped the MOEB so far and why? Can the experience of one site-specific technology museum be helpful to other, similar or not so similar museums? Where do the people associated with the museum see it in the short and long term? What role can technical history museums play in the broad picture of industrial heritage? The presentation will be divided in a short presentation of the Musée des ondes but will mostly focus on the subjects that concern, as far as we can judge, similar cultural agents using spaces in dynamic converted industrial buildings.

Anja Borck


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