Mission & Vision
The American public spends a total of 250 billion hours each year watching TV, and over the past half century this is equal to us collectively having watched about 15 trillion hours of television. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Labor watching television has been America’s number 1 leisure-time activity since 1960 and the television is on in our homes over 5 hours a day. Charles Coletta, Professor of Popular Culture at Bowling Green University wrote that this is precisely why academic study and the preservation of TV’s past provides a window on American culture: “Television both reflects and influences our lives, and therefore it is necessary we take television scholarship seriously.”
Life without television is basically unknown to most of us, and TV is affixed to American culture as a root is to a tree. What we learn when we look closely at the development of television programming and technology is not a distant tale that has no connection to contemporary American life, but rather it is the story of the past four generations of Americans; it is our story; it is our lives of which we see a reflection. For the first time in history, there are now more TVs than people in American homes, mind boggling new technology, and an even wider availability of television programming. Where it will go from here is yet to be seen, but one thing is for certain: In one form or another, television is here to stay and it will continue to be the story of an unknown number of future generations.
The Comisar Collection, Inc. is the most comprehensive archive of original television costumes, props, sets, and related ephemera extant. Since its inception in 1989, the collection’s mission has been to conserve and celebrate television’s tangible history, and its artifacts span the history of television from the first flickering moments of the broadcast medium to what was on TV last night. Collection assets are as varied as Ralph Kramden’s bus driver jacket from The Honeymooners, Ricky Ricardo’s tuxedo from I Love Lucy, Captain Kirk’s uniform from Star Trek, Maxwell Smart’s shoe phone from Get Smart, Archie and Edith Bunker’s living room chairs from All In the Family, and Johnny Carson’s complete set from The Tonight Show to the vomit bucket from Fear Factor, Donald Trump’s boardroom from The Celebrity Apprentice, Simon Cowell’s judges desk from American Idol, and a section of the downed plane from Lost.
After two decades of collective day-dreaming, gathering iconographic materials, and refining a unique concept, we now have the framework for a fresh new look at America’s modern history and a creative space dedicated to public dialog about television, our relationship with it, the technology that delivers it, and how we as viewers can influence where it goes in the future.
The Museum of Television is an interactive social history museum that aims to educate, entertain and inspire the visitor by exploring the dynamic history of the second half of the 20th century and beyond through the examination of the reciprocal relationship between television and popular culture. Fundamental to the museum’s mission is the promotion of a deeper understanding of American modern history easily accessible through the creative study of the evolution of television programming.
Within 20 years of its introduction to the American public, television was ubiquitous earning a permanent place in living rooms across America as a primary source of entertainment, news and cultural unity. The MOT aims to give the visitor a fresh look at how television helped shape their life, the life of the nation and solidified America’s place in the world -- as well as an opportunity to consider what might come next.
While the Museum of Television’s goal is to compliment and expand on an already formidable museum community, we are uniquely poised to offer its citizens and visitors an experience unlike anything currently being offered in the city, state, or nation.
Ours is a unique, interactive museum dedicated to the reciprocal relationship between American television and American culture, and it will take visitors on a fun, stimulating walk back through our country's dynamic history. Here they have a chance to gauge how much our nation has changed, to understand how and why some of our collective views and tastes have evolved, to think about how television has influenced their own lives, as well as to consider what might come next.
This is a fresh approach to telling America’s story. Central to the mission is to offer exhibitions grounded in culture and experience, rather than just academic authority. Nothing can quite compare to the emotional response that artifacts and actual documents inspire. If words and images were sufficient museums would serve no purpose. Actual artifacts can attract, grab, and hold the visitor’s attention and spark the imagination, opening the way for a fresh look at something that is so familiar that it may otherwise be taken for granted. A museum is only possible with an artifact collection to support it, and The Comisar Collection will distinguish the Museum of Television as housing more of television’s material heritage than any other institution in the world. Its exhibits will be inviting to everyone, and each visitor will be able to see some part of themselves in the story.