Watching TV

The MZTV Museum

MZTV Museum of Television, founded by broadcaster Moses Znaimer, is the world's first museum dedicated to television sets and ephemera.

Its mission is to secure the technological history of the television receiver, and to contribute to the understanding of television's impact by collecting, displaying, documenting and interpreting television sets and related ephemera. The Museum presents educational programmes and makes its library and resources available to scholars and students. The Museum also intends to tell the story of television by involving the public in an MZTV oral history project and by using electronic kiosks and computer websites.

The idea for the MZTV collection was born when Moses Znaimer noticed a Philco Predicta television in a producer's office. Znaimer admired the design of the Predicta and determined to have one. He quickly discovered how difficult old television sets were to come by. Victims of their own success, television sets had become so familiar and ubiquitous — and so quickly superseded technologically — that they were not objects of respect. Television sets were also cheap enough that there was little effort put into fixing them when they began to fail. Thus, when people bought a new television set, the old one was thrown out. Rather than ending up in repositories of collectibles, old television sets were more often destroyed.

Znaimer set out to give the television set the respect he felt it was due as the single most influential invention of our time. He did indeed get his Philco Predicta — in fact, he got three of them — and ended up building what may be the world's most extensive collection of television sets. The core of his collection is comprised of approximately 360 television receivers; 12,000 assorted television tubes, lamps, capacitors, etc.; 1475 schematics and manuals for televisions; 200 items of television memorabilia, including the original Felix the Cat broadcast model; a library of over 300 books on television; 1200 television magazines; and 300 still photographs.

Znaimer also set out to restore common memory of the inventors and dreamers who gave us what Znaimer calls "this astonishing technology; the most important cultural phenomenon of the twentieth century", and has also collected for the MZTV Museum an extensive reference library and other support material.

Of 7,000 television sets made before the Second World War, only 114 are still known to exist and, as Moses Znaimer has pointed out, there are fewer prewar television sets in the world today than there are Stradivarius violins. While there are museums in the U.S. dedicated to television programming, the MZTV Museum is the only museum in the world which is dedicated to the apparatus of television and its technological history.

The MZTV Museum is open by appointment to scholars and interested members of the public. Watching TV, originally presented at the Institute of Contemporary Culture of the Royal Ontario Museum and now showing in an enhanced form at the Canadian Museum of Civilization, marks the first major display of core holdings from the MZTV Museum.

MZTV Museum address:

277 Queen Street West
Toronto, Ontario M5V 1Z9
tel: (416) 599-7339

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