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Nostalgia for Gramophones
Victor 6 (1920, U.S.)
Lakeside Museum Traces Antique Sound
By Chung Ah-young
GANGNEUNG ― Gyeongpodae on the East Coast is widely known as a sandy beachside resort area for many vacationers. But a ten-minute walk away from the beach, there is quite a different spot to grab tourists' attention.
Located next to the tranquil Gyeongpo Lake, a phonograph-shaped museum exterior, which tells the identity of the building, first comes into sight.
The museum consisting of the two separate museums ― Charmsori Gramophone Museum and Edison Science Museum ― is the first and largest of its kind with a collection of valuable vintage and antique gramophones and Edison inventions.
To help visitors, especially children, understand the history of gramophones and other inventions by Thomas Edison, the museum offers a curator's guided tour.
Walking inside exhibition hall 1, visitors can find a curator explaining the history of the music boxes, the very first form of current MP3 players.
The hall displays about 30 music boxes, including English Fairground Organ (U.K.) and Portable Classic Organ (Germany), and about 350 pieces of beautiful horn gramophones, portable gramophones and children's gramophones.
Kim Bo-ram, the curator, said before the gramophone was invented, there was the music box, which was made from steel prongs sounded by pins set in a disc or drum. First produced in 1796 in Switzerland and then manufactured in other European countries in the 1800s, the music box gradually became popular later.
``We are now using MP3 players. These music boxes are like the early types of MP3 players. People carried a portable music box on the move in the past,'' Kim said.
She also said that phonographs with horns varying in color and size used to be symbols of the rich. ``Many people think the size of the horns are related to the sound re production. But the horn sizes are just a symbol of wealth. The bigger the horn, the richer the owner,'' she said.
Moving to exhibition hall 2 on the second floor, visitors can find cabinet type built-in gramophones manufactured in the 1920s-30s, which show the advanced process of the record player. Gramophones were developed from simply sound-making devices for entertainment to the ornamental devices, according to the museum.
About 300 types of ornamental built-in gramophones, which are the advanced versions of the horned gramophones, such as American Phonograph made in 1900 (U.S.) and the Credenza in 1925-28 (U.S.), made in 30 countries show how record players evolved.
``The built-in gramophones were more expensive and technologically advanced than the horn phonographs, enabling listeners to control the volume by opening or closing the doors of the cabinets,'' the curator said.
At exhibition hall 3, various types of radios and TV sets produced around the world from the 1920s to the 1980s, including the very first TV, ``Baird 30 Line TV'' by Plessey in 1928 (U.K.) and RCA Victor Radio in 1953 (U.S.) are on display.
After seeing the three major exhibit halls, the curator guides visitors to the music hall, the highlight of the museum tour.
The music hall located on the second floor of the main hall was designed in the shape of a gramophone record and can accommodate 200 people.
In the music hall, visitors can listen to the 100-year history of sound development from gramophones to modern CDs, LDs and DVDs under the guidance of the curator.
Visitors can compare and listen to music ― sometimes classic or other times pop songs ― from more than 10 types of speakers, including Western Electric of the 1920s and Macintosh, Jadis called ``Voice of Angel.''
Not to be missed is the observatory room on the main hall rooftop, which offers an outdoor lounge where people can enjoy scenic views from the Gyeongpo Lake to the horizon of the East Sea.
Beside the Charmsori Gramophone Museum, the Edison Science Museum welcomes visitors.
In the museum, various inventions by Edison can be viewed. Inside exhibition hall 1, Edison's three major inventions ― gramophones, light bulbs and projectors ― composing sound, light and images are on display.
Various gramophones including Edison's first gramophone ``Tinfoil'' and 300 gramophones from Edison's Gramophone Company, including representative ones like ``Amberola'' and ``Opera'' are displayed.
At the same time, Edison's very first carbon lamp and some 500 types of light bulbs produced by Edison Electronics are still emitting light even after a century. Also, Edison's first Kinetoscope, some 200 projectors for the theater, school and home, as well as representative products of Edison Electronics such as ``Dynamo Generator'' and batteries are on display.
At exhibition hall 2, various living electrics, home products, and kitchen appliances that Edison invented and developed are shown. Kim explained that he invented many housework-related items for his wife.
Among them, Edison electric fans, Edison mimeographs, stock ticker displays and telephones continue to contribute to people's lives.
Some 200 pieces of Edison's inventions, such as coffee pots, typewriters, sewing machines, heaters, fans, irons, fan heaters and clocks are at the venue.
Not only Edison's inventions but also numerous inventions from other countries are displayed, including the world's first mimeograph, a telegraph of James Watt who improved the steam engine.
The Charmsori Gramophone Museum first started as a small museum named ``Charmsoribang'' in 1982 in Gangneung, Gangwon Province.
But after the museum's collection gained reputation both at home and abroad, the museum officially reopened under its current name in November 1992.
In 2006, 25 years after it opened, the museum was transferred to the current popular tourist destination, ushering in a new era as a global museum.
The museum sees 500,000 domestic and foreign visitors annually.
It was established by founder and director Son Sung-mok, who has collected gramophones from around the world for 45 years.
His interest in collecting gramophones has extended to Edison's other inventions, leading to the establishment of the Edison Science Museum.
At the Edison museum, about 2,000 pieces of Edison's inventions collected over 20 years are shown.
For the Charmsori museum, 4,000 gramophones and 1,500 radio and TV sets made between the 1800s and 1900s from 50 countries are exhibited.
Director Son began developing his interest in gramophones after he was given a phonograph, Columbia Gramophone G241 when he was a boy.
Since then, he has traveled to buy antique gramophones at major auctions around the world and devoted his assets to collecting the valuable gramophones and inventions.
For more information, visit www.edison.kr (Korean, English and Chinese are available) or call (033) 655-1130-2. Opening hours are 9:00 a.m. to 17:00 p.m.
Admission fees are 7,000 won for adults and 5,000 won for children and 6,000 won for middle and high school students.