The “last piece” to make West Chester Township’s Voice of America Bethany Relay Station a museum may finally be in place.
During its Tuesday night meeting, township trustees unanimously agreed to enter a five-year lease with the Board of the National Voice of America Museum of Broadcasting, which will put the museum’s board in charge of maintaining the landmark and will allow them to raise funds as a non-profit corporation.
While the board of trustees approved the lease, it still requires approval from the Secretary of the United States Department of Interior. Township administrator Judith Boyko said she doesn’t expect an objection from the U.S. government.
“It is the last piece to put us in position to actual begin the museum’s development,” VOA board chairman Ken Rieser said.
“Bethany Station is truly a national treasure, it is West Chester’s good fortune that it is here. I have no doubt that it will bring national and international fame to West Chester.”
Since the township acquired the property in 1998, it has undergone numerous restoration projects that were finally completed in the summer of 2012.
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Since its inception to 1994, the Bethany Relay Station delivered U.S. news in a total of 52 different languages throughout the world. It was originally created under the direction of Powell Crosley Jr. to combat Germany and Japan shortwave transmitters, which shared anti-American propaganda to the world.
“Locally we want people to understand the history that has been made in West Chester and all the history of broadcasting that has been developed here in Greater Cincinnati,” Rieser said.
“There is also a certain draw to the people behind the Iron Curtain, the people in China and places where there have been problems understanding and knowing what the truth was. This place is a draw for them. They just want to see it.”
For any person to see it the way the VOA Museum board wants it to be presented, approximately $12 million will need to be raised to make it a revenue-generating landmark.
Its first large contribution could come from the township itself. In January of 2013, the trustees are expected to vote on a financial contribution schedule. Amounts could change, but the contributions, if approved, will descend from $85,000 in the first year, to $75,000 in years two and three and to $50,000 in years of four and five.
“It is important to all of the board that this facility be able become an independent unit,” said West Chester Trustee President Catherine Stoker, who has been trustee since 1994.
“This is a tremendous opportunity to bring West Chester before the world.
“We have had people come over, for example, from Ukraine, who specially came to West Chester to see that building because during the Cold War they would secretly listen to Voice of America so they could find out what was going on. They were just in tears when they played some old broadcasts for them. It was just a wonderful experience.”
If and when the fundraising is completed, it is expected to attract 25,000 visitors, bring in $475,000 in out of area direct spending and provide an overall economic impact in excess of $1.7 million annually, according to estimates by museum design firm Jack Rouse Associates.
Currently, the unfinished museum off Tylersville Road has been open from 1 to 4 p.m. on the third Saturday of each month since July of 2012.
As of right now, it consists of exhibits featuring the old relay station; Media Heritage’s Greater Cincinnati Museum of Broadcast History; the Gray History of Wireless Museum; and the West Chester Amateur Radio Association control room.
For more information about VOA museums, go to www.voamuseum.org.
The museum is located at 8070 Tylersville Road in West Chester.
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