Rowan home to new RCA museumJuly 26, 2012
Nipper has found a home near the stacks of books in the Campbell Library at Rowan University.
Representations of the iconic canine, captured in the painting “His Master’s Voice” and pictured in the gramophone logo that represents an earlier iteration of long-time Camden-based business RCA, are some of dozens of items now housed in The RCA Heritage Program Museum in the library in Glassboro.
The brainchild of retired RCA executive Joseph Pane, of Voorhees, The RCA Heritage Program Museum contains various types of memorabilia in addition to a Nipper sculpted in hardwood. Items from the Victor Talking Machine company, a precursor to RCA, include a 1908 Victrola and numerous 78 Red Seal Label records, such as Ave Maria sung by John McCormack and a Mozart symphony by the Philadelphia Orchestra. The museum also features equipment manufactured by RCA for the U.S. government and the military, such as transmitters, receivers, headsets for soldiers’ helmets, a KY-68 field telephone and the secure telephone produced for the military and all federal agencies, including Congress and the President. Some of the equipment is on loan from the National Cryptologic Museum in Maryland.
Right now, Pane is working with fellow Voorhees resident Jim Hemschoot, who recently retired from RCA spinoff L-3 Communications as director of the Signals Intelligence Business Area.
Reviving the name
“The RCA Heritage Program mission is to revive RCA’s name and legacy in South Jersey,” said Pane. “The intent is to bring in equipment and memorabilia that RCA has built during six decades.”
Rowan President Dr. Ali A. Houshmand is a supporter of the fledgling museum. “Like Rowan University, RCA has long been an important part of the face of South Jersey. We are pleased to provide a home for such an interesting part of our community’s history in our library,” said the president, who noted Rowan also has strong ties to Camden and is involved in numerous projects in the city, including co-founding Cooper Medical School of Rowan University.
According to Hemschoot, “To us RCA was more than a company; it was a family with a long, proud tradition. Grandparents, parents and children worked alongside each other producing the finest, technically sophisticated electronic equipment.”
He added, “Eventually RCA became known as ‘The Most Trusted Name in Electronics.’ This spirit should not be forgotten. It is our hope that The RCA Heritage Program will keep the ‘family spirit’ alive for generations to come.”
According to Pane, RCA — which originally stood for Radio Corporation of America — has a long and proud history in South Jersey. Founded in 1919, it was the creator of many firsts in the nation. Eventually the firm had several iterations: General Electric, Martin Marietta, Lockheed Martin and L-3 Communications.
At its peak
Pane said RCA employed 12,000 at one time during its peak period in South Jersey. From its beginning in broadcast communication, RCA expanded into many other fields, including consumer electronics; television (which RCA invented); computers; TV cameras; and products for the military, including security equipment and recorders for space applications such as the TIROS satellite — all designed and manufactured in Camden.
A native of Italy, Pane is proud of the firm he called home for 24 years. Hemschoot, a native of New Jersey, said, “I was born in RCA. It was my first job. It was my last job. We were a family.”
According to the duo, RCA designed and built the lunar module that landed men on the moon (Apollo 11) and created the communication equipment used on the International Space Station, among other achievements.
Pane also said RCA was critical to the economic evolution of South Jersey. “For 60 years, RCA was a major employer,” he said. “RCA created the middle professional class in South Jersey.”
That is part of the reason he approached Campbell Library director Bruce Whitham about establishing the museum at Rowan, which he said is an outstanding school in the region and will be a “principal education institution for a long time to come.” Both RCA and Rowan are huge parts of the South Jersey landscape.
Whitham recognized RCA as a giant in science and industry, with innumerable contributions in the areas of consumer electronics, musical recordings, broadcasting, logistics, communications, security and defense. “Thousands of engineers and tens of thousands of workers were part of the RCA family in (the region). This is a great opportunity for Rowan to participate in reviving the RCA name and its important story in South Jersey,” he said.
The RCA Heritage Program also plans to establish a scholarship in Rowan’s College of Engineering.
Pane and Hemschoot hope to have the museum open to the public in the near future. They currently are soliciting memorabilia, and they plan to bring RCA retirees to Rowan to capture their oral and video memories of RCA.
To donate items to the museum or to learn how to become involved, contact Pane at firstname.lastname@example.org.