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Broadcast Communications Museum Hosts VIP Open House

Brodacast Communcations Museum Open House

Bozo was among the guests at an open house Thursday for the Museum of Brodacast Communcations. (Credit: CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – The Museum of Broadcast Communications offered Gov. Pat Quinn, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and a host of others a “sneak preview” open house at its new digs Thursday night.

Bozo the Clown and Svengoolie, a.k.a. Rich Koz, greeted the 550 guests and posed with them for photos as they arrived, standing alongside museum Executive Director Bruce DuMont and Illinois Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago).

Tables of old radios were set up, and old WGN-TV and CBS studio cameras were on display. But the interactive “exhibits” were the biggest hits.

On one floor, the Bozo’s Circus Grand Prize Game attracted kids of all ages like a magnet as Bozo stood by and the old WGN-TV organ played. On another floor, radio legend Dick Biondi drew awestruck fans as he broadcast live.

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Late Cubs, Sox and Bears broadcaster Jack Brickhouse will have a prominent spot in the new museum. His widow, Pat, liked what she saw.

“I am just overwhelmed. It’s finally coming to fruition,” she said. “We’ve waited way too long, but it will happen. We know it. We can’t wait.”

DuMont announced a pair of $250,000 donations. The state of Illinois recently donated $6 million, and the sneak preview itself raised approximately $75,000. But he said the museum still needs $4.5 million in order to complete it.

“Next June is our 25th anniversary. We certainly hope to be open by then,” he said. “We will be having public programs in this building this year.”

Gov. Quinn and Mayor Emanuel both predicted that the museum will become a major tourist attraction.

“Having a special museum of this kind is really in the interests of all of the people of Illinois,” Quinn said.

Emanuel noted that the first televised presidential debate took place in the old CBS studios at 630 N. McClurg Ct., in CBS 2’s Studio 1, in 1960.

“It changed the definition of broadcast and the importance of TV to our culture, both for good and for bad,” he said.

CBS 2’s Bill Kurtis also was among those in the crowd and said he looks forward to the incorporation of interactive exhibits, and exhibits that may provides clues to the future of broadcast media.

The concrete-and-glass shell of the museum, at 360 N. State St., is completed, while the conversion of the interior from a parking garage is progressing.

When it’s finished, the new building will feature a two-story, glass-and-steel lobby atrium, a café, and a gift shop. It will also include working television and radio studios, a media-equipped education center, and more than 15,000 square feet of exhibition space, according to the museum’s Web site.

For the better part of a decade, the museum has existed only as a Web site. The museum was housed on the first floor of the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington St., until 2003, when the museum moved out with plans for the grand new building in River North.

The plans became delayed after a failed agreement between DuMont and deposed Gov. Rod Blagojevich for a state grant that never came. But construction finally resumed earlier this year.