Shocking Interview! Learn about the Spark Museum of Electrical Invention in Bellingham
This episode is a conversation with Tana Granack the Operations Director for The Spark Museum of Electrical Invention in Bellingham, Washington.
You will hear about Tesla Coils, Theremins, priceless light bulbs and much more during our chat about the museum.
The Spark Museum focusing on bringing electricity to life and makes learning fun for everyone who visits the museum. We chat about some of the exhibits and how visitors can interact with the exhibits.
You will learn about the Mega Zapper and hear about the 9ft Tesla Coil that sends bolts of electricity shooting at the cage while you stand inside. Are you brave enough? I don't think I am....
Make sure you check out the Spark Museum of Electrical Invention here.
Spark has a Facebook Page that you can follow.
Each episode will will have a chat with someone who has a great story to share about Washington State. From artists, to business owners. Musicians to athletes Exploring Washington State will showcase the beauty and creativity here in Washington State.
You can find all of our podcast episodes on our Exploring Washington State Podcast Page.
If you have any suggestions for guests for a future episode please send us an email.
Scott Cowan : Hi everybody. This is Scott with the Exploring Washington State podcast and today, my guest is Tana Granack. He is the Operations Director for the Spark Museum of Electrical Invention in Bellingham. Welcome Tana.
Tana Granack : Hi. Nice to be here. Thanks for having me, Scott.
Scott Cowan : Thanks for thanks for being on and I'm looking forward to finding out more about the museum. Why don't you Why don't we get started with a little bit of tell us the backstory what's the history there.
Tana Granack : About 20 years ago to lifelong collectors from Bellingham of all places. Married their collections together. One's a radio collector who had one of the finest radio collections in the world, thousands of radios, particularly in the golden age of radio. The other was interested in early electrical scientific equipment. I mean, dawn of the electrical age stuff, Ben Franklin before Isaac Newton, Gilbert, Telephone, Telegraph and all the scholarship that goes with it. So they married the two together in a large building in downtown Bellingham. And they wanted to tell the entire story of electrical invention. And so they they got this 25,000 foot sq ft facility and they filled it with this collection of original artifacts and we've been busy ever since.
Scott Cowan : That's fascinating and that they're both in Bellingham and have these large collections. So you said golden age of radio. When was the golden age of radio? Oh, you know, To think of the 30s and 40s you know, the Jack Benny the big bands, the music, I mean, radio was such a she was just a brand new phenomena, you know that. Just imagine how empty your room would be without any souvenirs on TV. There's a production we have a box it has some sound that comes out from somewhere else. It was profoundly communal, liberal and liberating. And people just so radio just flourished. It started in the 20s, the first radio station where the first radio actually the first radio that took broadcast the first radio station in 1921. And then within 10 or 15 years again, you've got you've got Burns and Allen and and and Hope and Cosby and Frank Sinatra and the music industry and the whole music industry imagine didn't even exist, you know? So um, so that's the golden age of radio and Delaware's Have as the one of the finest collections in the world. And our biggest problem is we have we have a great deal on display, but also floors and actually outside buildings full of extra equipment that we still have to negotiate and go through. So it's a spectacular collection. Okay, yeah, one of the things I think of when I think of radio is, you know, you know, war was the War of the Worlds that the the radio show that kind of before my time but threw everybody into a big panic because they kind of thought it was real.
Tana Granack : Yeah, the whole 1938 you know, the, the Halloween whole bit? Yes, it was, again, radio is so new, and if you're, if you're going through the dial, to all of a sudder, hear someone in they did frame it much like a regular radio broadcast that was the drama of it. And so that was a phenomenon and to be able to reach, you know, millions and millions of households instantaneously It was a it was a big lesson in the power of this both good and bad in this mass communication.
Scott Cowan : so not not that you know the answer this but I will ask the question when when did Bellingham get radio?
Tana Granack : Well, I would imagine well no there's some actually some local historians that do a lot of work with with the radio in the early but I would say it would be in the in the in the late mid to late 20s 2027
Scott Cowan : so within the first decade It was really probably reaching smaller the smaller communities if you will of America because Bellingham wasn't that large of a place back then.
Tana Granack : No, no, but I could tell you a radio just like electricity I'm not sure you know, what the what the whole evolution of how that got out there but but you can imagine how important it was to rural areas to get any kind of communication VMO dial in so um, so radio stations went up. Everywhere I think pretty quick. But yeah.
Scott Cowan : Well, it's interesting you bring up the point that I did, I haven't thought about before is, you know, pre radio. How did you know? How did a rural person know what was going on? You know, in New York or Chicago or Seattle or something, I mean, guess the newspaper.
Tana Granack : That's right, and is a newspapers connected to the telegraph. Right, right jack and send his story, but I mean, it's, you know, so. So, ya know, it's it. And by the way, just so you know, that's kind of the fun of the fun of being here at this museum. Because, you know, we start with, you know, the early stuff, and my job or our job is to take you back in a time when nobody even knew what to call this, this energy, little what to do with it. And it's just been a little while, and to watch how things change as people slowly get connected. You know and and you know the internet was huge TV and radio is huge but nothing beats the telegraph nothing sewed the country and the planet together better than the telegraph to be able to get a message you know a thousands of miles away in a matter of seconds.
Scott Cowan : That's true.
Tana Granack : It was just you know the old days if you're the general you send off the army and you send them off and you wave and then you wait two years to find out who won. why you know, good luck and then maybe you get a message back but what you know you go to go to England and get a message to the Queen she says well tell them maybe you got to get back on a boat for six weeks. And you know, you just it just so communication to be and you know, the other thing is really interesting is it because the military use this in such a big way early on, obviously, before Galileo turn the telescope up to see the you know, to really start figuring things I was it was a military weapon, but to be able to see your enemy or know your enemy before your enemy can see or know you The advantages are obvious and profound. So communication good and bad is, you know, for good or bad means, you know, communication, instant communication is changes everything.
Scott Cowan : So, yes, very true, very true. So, looking back on the museum's evolution, you're at where you're at today. What do you think the museum's gonna look like, say in five years?
Tana Granack : You know, it's such a big question, but the museum is a science and history museum that has demonstrations and exhibits that are accessible to everybody on every level. If I was going to show anybody if I had anybody said, I got one hour science to show you in the world. This would be the vehicle and this would be the way I do it. You don't have to know anything about it. It's accessible, it's immediate, everybody gets it. It's not conscious. reversal or not the Darwin museum and electricity and silent you know, magnetism museum. So it's like it's it's it's stuff that we all work with. And so I just see as being a bigger and bigger hub for science education.
Scott Cowan : Okay, that's that's that sounds awesome. That sounds exciting.
Tana Granack : Yeah, it is. It is exciting, you know. And so and that's what we've gone. And that's, you know, we're on the way we did almost 20,000 visitors before we were we had this unfortunate pandemic that's affecting everybody and our hearts go out to everybody. But and there are a lot of businesses that are in jeopardy and we certainly, you know, we're not happy about not being able to serve the public. But if kids and people needs need science education more than ever, we're the we're the platform for it. So we're just the teachers in the community are just chomping at the bit to for us to come back and the only complaint we get is there's not more of us.
Scott Cowan : Okay,
Tana Granack : You know, and then there's not more progress. What more and so we feel like we're on the right track. We feel like we're on the right track and we respond to the community. That's another thing is being that starting out just loving the museum and the collection and then you know, starting to teach classes and working with kids and lots of people to everybody, your grandma, your kids, your, your aunt from France, who doesn't speak English, you know, they'll have a great time and it's such a meaningful time that it just made a great impact on the staff, you know, doing these demonstrations stuff, like you know, we really have an effect on people we have to really be serious about this and, and, and this is fun and exciting. But you know, it's a great platform and, and, and so we just take it all pretty seriously what we do here,
Scott Cowan : Do you ever you mentioned kids, do you ever take parts of the collection to the schools and bring it directly to the kids?
Tana Granack : You know, it's funny, we do damage illustrations, it's at the school sometimes, you know, but, but it's hard to take. That's one thing we learned early on is that this space has become so spectacular. You know, because, you know, I was just writing something up about the galleries, we give demonstrations docents give demonstrations in all the galleries. So here are surrounded, let's say you're in the static electricity exhibit Well, you're surrounded with the first devices ever used to make measures for electricity, not copies, like pieces from 1650 1700s. And then in the midst of that some guys there with a replica, and the kids are all running and we can demonstrate that for yourself. So um, there's no better place to experience these demonstrations than here. And the other thing is, as a lot of the bigger equipment just can't be moved, like the mega zapper that four and a half million volts of loose electricity. I just can't put that in a truck and wheel it somewhere and so what I'm saying is, is there A lot of the experience is built in to the, into the into the museum itself so that you would enjoy it as a museum and Gosh, aren't these wonderful, priceless artifacts to admire? Then there's the interactive. And then there's of course, all that we can demonstrate for you. And that's, that's why with this pandemic, you know, we're getting ready to reopen. And when we reopen, it's like, well, our biggest brag is look at all these cool interactive, because that's what people want. Yeah, it's great to see a priceless light bulb. But what does it do? Right? So can I interact with some newer things, we have these interactions that bring it all home and have telephones you can dial on telegraph keys, you can tap on,
Scott Cowan : oh, very cool
Tana Granack : and Theremin's to play you know, and static labs and make your hair stand up and all those things that you expect when you come to this museum, including seeing indoor lightning. And so that's what we're doing with the docents. It's like, Guys, if people aren't able to interact with things as much as they used to, because people are not into touching like they used to write nobody wants to put a puzzle together. Got it. So that means our job is to give more demonstrations. Now once we have been more present with the with people in the galleries, so so that we are demonstrating things for them and giving them a good time and leading them through So, so we've got that in spades we've got we give great dynamic that's part of our program is giving dynamic dynamic demonstrations in all of the galleries. And plus, we've got the powerhouse, we've got all the big equipment. So, um, we're gonna you know, we're just trying to just be a more of an orchestrated show for the timebeing.
Scott Cowan : Yeah, but so you mentioned a Theremin.
Tana Granack : Oh, the world's first electronic musical instrument, the only instruments you play without touching it. The instrument we all know we've heard many times we just don't always know it.
Scott Cowan : So when when was the first one When did those come out?
Tana Granack : The patent was in 1919. But the the first one the RCA Theremin which we have in the galleries, the original like, they mean 500 I think just 500 of the of the original RCA Theremin 1929. That was it. We have one. But we also have a couple of newer models for you to play along with. See, that's the deal. There is a scholarship. And then there's this, you know, there's the interactive, so it became known not as a musical instrument visit as a classic sound effect device.
Scott Cowan : So I was watching a video, I think you were playing one.
Tana Granack : Yeah.
Scott Cowan : But it was a MOOG
Tana Granack : Bob Moog of MOOG synthesizers, you know, so Theremin is considered really the first electronic musical instrument manufactured. It's very simple. It's very primitive. I call it's kind of the PONG backwards it's very primitive, like Volume and Pitch really that's about it just all you can do is get to make wierd noises. A lot of us it's very difficult to play. Well now you know they've got the MOOG synthesizers where sound has been synthesized and blended in such so beautifully. And so the MOOG synthesizer so as a tribute to Theremin the MOOG company produces it makes Theremin's today and they make a souped up a Theremin called a Theremin i And so if they've been able to incorporate some of the classic MOOG synthesizer sounds, the drone and some of those just very, they're very familiar into so you can play a MOOG synthesizer without touching it the way you play the Theremin. It's brilliant.
Scott Cowan : Okay, I know you were what got me as I was watching this video and the Theremin is just you're right i it I associate with like, old science fiction music, movies and and then also, Big Bang Theory when when Sheldon played it this so that's kind of my But then I saw this MOOG and I was like, that's kind of that was cool looking. I mean, that was a when did that so it was a, you know, a white plastic looking? Yeah. sci fi looking thing. It was cool. It's good.
Tana Granack : Theremini So there I'm in with an eye on the end. And yeah, they just came out about we've got a couple of them. I have one personally. Because again, it's it's, it's very versatile. And so it will play the original Theremin sound and you know, but then it's got ways to, to adjust the sound. It's got 32 I think preset classic Moog sounds that you can play and you can play around with the, with the pitch and you can play around with the with the key, and it's got a little screen. So it's, it's just the best and you're right. It's got that sci fi look very well, Bob Moog was talking about a collector's item that we wish we had. When Bob Moog, the, you know, the founder of MOOG synthesizers that we think was just brilliant. We have several of his of his 60s and 70s synthesizers. When he was a little boy he used to make Theremins in his garage when he was 14 and 15 and sell them off like in in, you know Popular Mechanics kind of magazines you know, you'd mail order. Imagine getting a handmade MOOG sent to a theremin made by Bob Moog when he was 15 in his garage. So that would be that would be very, very cool. Yeah, So Bob Moog is a big fan of Theremin and, and as a tribute to him produces a version of the theremin today.
Scott Cowan : So who's credited with inventing the Theremin ?
Tana Granack : Yeah, Leon, Theremin a Russian physicist and inventor was Russian he has to get the patent from 1919 and he came to America in the 20s. In RCA, again, we have the first one manufacturer the RCA on 1929 it's the same two wands you know, and and so uh, Yeah, that he was responsible for lots of other lots of other craziness as well as life went on. But yeah, Leon Theremin , famous Russian physicist.
Scott Cowan : So when I was looking at some of the other exhibits, you've got the incandescent light bulbs, and we're using them as space heaters, because the bulbs aren't very efficient. But that seemed intriguing to me that they were building little, like little radiators and putting light bulbs in them what, what was going on with that? Well,
Tana Granack : from from what I know about it, I just know that obviously, when we when you talk about the light bulb technology or the or the history of artificial light, you know, from streetlights. So they try to bring light into the home. And they finally you know, it's difficult. You know, it's one thing to make an Arc Light that can light up a street but to have that wrote that light in your home that safe and you could have around your kids and the whole thing is just like this pose a lot of safety problems. And when they finally when they finally got it, the light bulb was invented. Way back up. In 1800, a guy named Humphrey Davy is running electric current through a wire. And it's really it's very more and more it's getting hotter and hotter and as as a wire, it runs more more current through it begins to glow. And you run so much with three glows, it goes oh my gosh, I gives me light. But way before you get light, you get heat. It makes way more heat than light. It's not efficient, those light bulbs you touching to bring your hand right away. This is the point. And so these first incandescent bulbs, but they're not really thinking of that kind of efficiency, this heat is a byproduct. And so since they come give so much heat and he's liable and maybe we can we can harness it, we can focus the heat and use it as heat as well but it's like it's just not going to stop. Very practical.
Scott Cowan : We're interesting to look at some of the photos
Tana Granack : all that stuff I mean, we've got a little case full of of just bizarre you know, let alone the quack medicine everything which is another whole areas but just although the home appliances you know with this new energy source that this new reason to use electricity you know and
Scott Cowan : So what was okay so that's interesting so they started rolling out electricity into the home and in Is there something that would be considered the first home appliance that was using electricity what was or something?
Tana Granack : Yeah I'm trying to I can't think of what it is but there is I wasn't ready for that. There is there is it wasn't the toaster. I have to get back minds gonna run through the cabinet because lots of personal hair products we see like toasters, I think how many of the front if the heat not well, I don't know if you consider the the small heater, but it seemed like there was an appliance that was
Scott Cowan : Would of it had been iron.
Tana Granack : It might have been, but it might have been the hair product to like a curling iron or a flattening iron. But also push, you know, there's refrigerators and there's thinking of those things that I don't know what the chronology of that is in washing machines. And, and coffee pots and stove tops, and you know, hot plates. So I don't know what the what the first of that was.
Scott Cowan : But just think about all those all those appliances what efficiency they brought into life. Well we take for granted you know, a washing machine in a range top and things like that and just take it for granted. So that's that's that's interesting. Let's Yeah, let's go back You said something we weren't planning on talking about this but the quack medicine so when I think a quack medicine I think a guy selling you know, potions in, you know, snake oil if you will but what sort of quack medicine was using electricity?
Tana Granack : Gosh, so boy that's a big topic and well early on with electricity with electricity and so they're playing with sparks and magnets and compasses and they're starting to think well is this spark my machine the same thing as a bolt of lightning the sky? Is this the spark of life you know they're making a frog leg kick, the whole Mary Shelley I mean she's watching Galvani and Volta do their demonstrations. Bring electric current through you know, a nap you know, animal limbs and and bigger and bigger animal limbs in front of bigger and bigger audiences and thinking well this leg is kicking you know we're made of electricity Could this be the spark of life? You know these are these are all actually at the time were actually great questions. They just you know when you investigate them they are different fruit. Another another thing was well this is about healing properties. Early on, people are getting shocked electricity or playing minor amounts of it and claiming making claiming making medical claims and the placebo effect which I think is profound. is having a great effect on a lot of people. Look when you when you apply electric charge to people for gout, which it doesn't cure. Okay, what you know, it just doesn't cure but people had gout And 50% of your people say they feel better with the treatment, you're going to make a lot of money.
Scott Cowan : Wow, Okay.
Tana Granack : But it doesn't cure Gout. So, but it's being packaged in lots of ways. We have lots of samples of that, and electric belts to Phrenology stuff that goes in your head, like electric charges, different parts of your brain to play up or play down different parts of your personality. It's fascinating. And a lot of physicians hung their shingles. And actually, they're still still some today i think that that use some of this technology in a way that is difficult to prove, especially when people a lot of times they'll apply the electric charge, you'll get shocked and then when you're done they said you know, you often say you feel better and I think you'll feel better because they turned it off. But but then you have to deal with So then you're trying to sort out what what works and what doesn't work, you know, what does cure Gout and what,you know, and so on. So early on, especially the time of Franklin and and this Galvani with the frog leg thing, you know, like, Why can we re animate matter? And it's like, No, you can't. That's not what's going on. what's what's going on is wondrous and amazing. And it's gonna lead to the invention of the battery, thank you. But it's not going to re animate matter. You're not going to get a Frankenstein. It's not It's not how it's gonna work. You know, we tried that. And so and so, you know, that's, and you know, these stories. These are our stories, man. Okay, when I get a bunch of kids in the room now want to talk about some of this stuff. And I say Who's heard of Volta? Nobody raises their hand. Who's heard of Galvani? Nobody's raised their hand. I say Who's heard of Frankenstein. Everybody raised everybody. People don't speak English. raise their hand. You know. We can all talk. We'll Okay. Let's talk. This is a good this is a good question. You know, it's crazy. It's cool. Let's answer Let's go through it's fascinating. You know, we can do some science along the way. Wouldn't that be cool? anyway.
Scott Cowan : Okay, so when you guys were open it looked like on on the weekends you were doing this Mega Zapper show?
Tana Granack : Yeah.
Scott Cowan : Why? Explain it to me, please, because I don't understand why I could stand in that cage and not get electrocuted.
Tana Granack : Yeah, Isn't nature wonderful?
Scott Cowan : Well, it's okay. The photography of what you guys are showing here is jaw droppingly cool
Tana Granack : and Scott sometimes someday. We'd love to have you get in the cage. Take a camera with love with your own ones, you know and, and see if you're really meant for each other. And capture the moment on film. It's just yeah.
Scott Cowan : So how does it work? I mean, what's what's the science here?
Tana Granack : Well, let's see the science well first off, um the the cage the human bird cage as we call it. And and the big Mega Zapper, the big Tesla coil, the nine foot Tesla coil versions of that demonstration have been done for years. And we for years with, with a birdcage and light bulbs and smaller coils. And you know, we always say, hey, would it be interesting if you could get in one of these cages and prove it, you know, and so that we built one you know, the whole bit, but it's been done, but the idea is, even Franklin a couple hundred years ago knew that that electric charge on a hollow conductor would stay on the outside of the conductor and actually repel off it. almost think of it as like a is the best way for me to think of it as a non electrical engineers. You know, when you're working in an electromagnetic field, and you know, if you take two magnets, You know, you're just you know, it's so fun, you know, you just take two magnets, you know, and, you know, one side sticks,
Scott Cowan : right
Tana Granack : and the other side, repels, and I can't, I just won't let me, you know, invisible force to me. Well that force is on the outside of the cage. It is little reppelling off there. And so that's how you count on that, that and so that's what's happening off of it and it was trying to do, by the way is reppelling off the off the conductor, it's going around the conductor, it's looking, you know, electricity isn't is not a lot of times people try to give it personality, you know, like, angry or it's got somebody to talk to about electricity like it's a person. But but but of all the things you have to say about it is is persistent. It's it does not hesitate. It's insidious. And when that charge comes at you through that is known You're there, and it can't get you. And so it's going around trying to get you it's bouncing off the, the the conductive material. And it's it's an odd phenomenon to watch it seek seek out the ground is trying to get into the ground. It's trying to get into conduct trying to get to something, they'll get it in so it and you'd be a great pathway. And that's what it's looking for. And so we give it a pathway with a cage and a grounding cable. So that it just doesn't want you. But But if you were to take your finger and slowly stick it through the cage, which I can't believe I'm saying, but we've got spotters watching and all that stuff. But I mean, as soon as as soon as you were able to get outside the cage with whatever, I don't care what it was a needle, you know, as soon as that cage or that charge picked up the needle, it wouldn't care about the cage anymore. You'd be all about the needle and it'd be all about you. Right And so, just once the first thing it comes to It's, it's very predictable. And so you know, so this phenomenon this Faraday Cage effect, you know or just repels, is just yeah, people do it with screens and in different forms all the time. A lot of your electrical devices are protected with a Faraday without what they call a Faraday Cage effect where it's, it's, you know, sealed up in a conductive material and so it's able to repel an electric charge.
Scott Cowan : Oh, interesting. Yeah. So you've got a nine foot Tesla coil. And I'm gonna guess that that just doesn't plug into a regular wall outlet.
Tana Granack : Pretty dang close though. No, it plugs in a 220. I was just thinking that today, which is what you use your washer and dryer with. It runs on to 220 so my dryer, I could, I could go and get a nine foot Tesla coil on, plug it in where my dryer plugs in. Well, I like I'd be happy to help you hook that up. Scott. If you came to the I don't know how much see that I'd like to see. But yeah, it's a it's a pretty efficient. It was built back by a guy named Jeff Breezy, who Who actually built it for Cirque du Soleil and was building us we knew we wanted a big coil we'd always been talking, we wanted to figure, a figure piece. So it's figure demonstration, a signature demonstration. That's what I mean.
Scott Cowan : Gotcha.
Tana Granack : And we thought, well, the Mega Zapper in this whole phenomena would be a great, great show. Um, so we contacted a guy, Jeff breezy, he builds them in and he was building us one and he had just built this one for Cirque du Soleil and they had a very, really awful accident, almost right away in their rehearsals. And they canceled their electric theme show whatever it was, and gave him back his coil. So he contacted us and said, Would you like to buy a similar coil only slightly used in low mileage, low mileage, only one kill. And nobody, nobody was nobody was killed, but someone was really, really hurt. And, and so we bought it. And by the way, when we got that we realized what a great machine it was. I mean, there was, you know, definitely professional and big quality and everything we wanted, but also how dangerous it was and how we're going to roll out a show. I don't just do the weekend shows too. I do the weekend shows to the general public, but all during the week i do i do school groups, so did school groups or will do school groups again. So I use that coil virtually every day. And to roll it out in front of 100 hundred and 50 people, you know, Hit the lights, I got five year olds and grandma and people with all kinds of from all walks of life, you know, and to be to know that I'm able to do this in a safe way and everybody have a fun, spectacular time. It's It's great. It's great. So um,
Scott Cowan : yeah, so how long How long does somebody stay in the cage? Oh, well, how long is the show?
Tana Granack : Yeah, well, while the show itself, you know, depending on how long we know what the buildup is and what the demonstrations are around that you're actually getting inside the cage. So there's an audience here you see the big cage, it's a large cage, it actually holds four to six people, the cage is that big. here's the big coil, there's a fence and then usually I do other coils before that and maybe the bird cage is a demonstration so you get a sense of what we're about to do. And you know, take it up a notch so to speak, and then reveal the big cage and then have people step inside and then reveal the coil and then do the wind up and then fired off. So we use it but we fire the coil and you know, 15 seconds. That's a long time.
Scott Cowan : Yeah, that that would be
Tana Granack : It's loud. It's you know, it's like but it's it's like a roller coaster. It's like a jet engine. And yeah, look little, you know, we tried it, we try to place it well, so that so that so that, you know a little bit goes a long way with something surely. So we've tried to really, but but something else too is you know, and we're proud of the coil. I love the coil. I mean the big Mega Zapper. But I've got Tesla coils. And to be honest, if you were if you're here for like five minutes or 10 minutes, and you said I tell you, you can only show me one thing. You can only give me one demonstration, what would it be? I wouldn't do that it would be in the top five. But I do the singing Tesla coil which is hanging from the ceiling where I can play the theme from. I mean, I could play the theme from Star Wars or Hall of the Mountain King or Frankenstein or you know, I mean I've been singing Tesla coil that's much like a theramin except when it's blasting electrical energy and throwing out sparks is doing it to a particular tune.
Scott Cowan : So, okay, you heard never heard of Yeah. Never heard of that before. And you, You wrecked my question because I was going to ask you what your favorite thing was, and you just kind of answered it. So you didn't record it. That's awesome. But tell me more about the singing Tesla coil. I mean, I've never heard of anything.
Tana Granack : Oh my gosh. Yeah, no, they're perfect. I was gonna film film. It's some today so. So just like so when you a Theremin? You know, it's it's a, it's throwing out bursts of electrical energy. It's usually fairly loud and it's kind of a you know, frequency. Well, with the long the short of it is about 20 25 years ago. Some electrical engineers figured out a way to control the frequency of the of the tesla coil so much like it theramin just makes like a, just instead of a sound, you're able to take the pitch up and down. Well, that's what they do with Theramin So that scratch is able to take it up and down and dial in so you can dial in notes. And so myself or my colleagues will step up. The President and CEO John Jenkins and founder of Museum, one of his favorite things to do is to step up and he plays it pretty good to you plays Purple Haze by Jimi Hendrix, like nobody's business.
Scott Cowan : That would be cool
Tana Granack : On the same foil. I mean, just knocks that out. And so when you catch the arc you're able to pull the note and it's, it's spectacular. That's my show. That's what I close every show with because after that, I got nothing to show you. What I tell him
Scott Cowan : So this is a relatively recent invention, if you will, our use of the tesla coil is this to turn it into a musical device if you
Tana Granack : a singing coil, and like they like Burning Man. I think there's a guy I've does one at Burning Man or something, the big ones I've seen dueling banjo kind of singing coils. Oh god so and so they're called Azusa phones and you know, different terms like that, but I've call them singing Tesla coils. And they're they're kind of a novelty. A variation on on on the coil and to make music with it is.
Scott Cowan : Yeah, it's memorable. It's okay. Yeah, I'm looking forward to coming and seeing that. So, before we push the button to record, you mentioned something about Edison 78 being proprietary, and the whole recorded music like what? When did when did when did vinyl records come out? When when was because when I was a kid Are those Edison the tubes up behind you? I can see behind your head and on top of the bookcase you've got some old oh yeah cylinders. So when did it go from cylinders to to vinyl platters?
Tana Granack : Well it went from I mean they use different materials. But the cylinders again are meant too much to emulate you know the style of the Edison cylinder phonographs look much like music boxes. And if you look at the cylinder and the music box, instead of the pins, this has got a groove. I mean that that design you know that's originally it. That's why we have vintage music boxes next to the Edison cylinders to show you that evolution and what people are thinking and so so they must have gone flat sometime I would think Like in the 20s maybe that mean, just basic record? Yeah, just flat 78 hours in the early 20s, early 20s looking at now, right, so this is like, 1902 this is like 120 this is like 120 revolutions a minute, then you get 78 right? 78's look like 33 and a thirds except 78 hold one song 33 minutes is like five songs, right? I mean, you know, you hold up, hold up those So, so these got flattened out. But that but then they weren't really vinyl if they didn't really go to vinyl, I think until they went to albums, to the 33 and a thirds, and there was an overlap because we've got like a, we've got a vintage Wurlitzer Music Box from 1938 and now that holds 78 also Yeah, so August Yeah, but I think but the 32 40, the 33 and a third and the 45's that came out more in the 40's.
Scott Cowan : So that's cylinder. How much audio does that hold? Is that just a song? Yeah. So maybe three to five minutes?
Tana Granack : Two to four minutes. The black ones are two minutes. There's some old ones that run for four minutes. Okay, that's a cylinder. The song title is on the end. And it just goes up on a machine very similar to a shape of a music box with a horn on it.
Scott Cowan : Right, now you were you had a video that you were playing one and you didn't have the horn on right. And I was I was it was very interesting to me to watch that because you started playing, you know, you put the needle down and then you you put the megaphone on and it made the volume was was incredible.
Tana Granack : That's so that's the best part of the demonstration. We do that always on purpose that we always have the horn on the side because we should just have it on to the Yeah, it's it's very dramatic. When that goes, everybody kind of goes, wow.
Scott Cowan : Yeah, it really was a very drastic improvement to the quantity. So, so what I one of the questions I've been asking people as we wrap things up, putting you on the spot here, I'm going to paint a scenario. And here's the scenario. Everybody is in the museum is safe. But you have to leave the museum. And you can only take one thing with you. What would be the one thing in the museum you would take?
Tana Granack : In the museum? Yeah, well, I'll tell you, I will probably take the most. This is crazy. But I think it's what I'd do. I take the most priceless thing in the museum. And the most priceless thing in the museum is the Edison light bulb, which was the first incandescent light bulb that was you know, it's just unbelievably rare. So I would take that light bulb, and I would take it but here's the problem. It's a burned out light bulb. It's It's like, still like it's a burned out, light bulb right. It's like, it was still like it's a burnout, light bulb. What good is it? Well, that's why. What makes it what it is is the story in history. Okay. And the context. That's what makes it priceless. Right. Okay, so, so I feel odd about the one thing I would take would be a burned out light bulb. But that's what I'm taking.
Scott Cowan : Okay. And you were not prepared for that question. So we'll allow that answer. That's that's a great answer.
Tana Granack : And I think when the smoke clears and my bosses go, yeah, yeah, sorry. I might get chewed out but I've been chewed out before.
Scott Cowan : Okay. All right. So as we wrap up, why don't you Why don't you tell our audience where they can find more about the museum and And then ultimately at some point you'll be open to the public again, but where can if they want to go find out more about you guys, where can they find you?
Tana Granack : Well, I mean, we're certainly you know, we have a website it's a Spark Museum, www.sparkmuseum.org with Facebook saying where we can find us
Scott Cowan : well, aren't you so you have you have a Facebook page you've got your website? Are you on any other social media platforms are on Instagram,
Tana Granack : I believe on Instagram, but I'm Yes, I believe on Instagram, but I really information at the moment. Other people handle that, again, I said I'm the custodian. So I'm want to talk to the bathrooms. But yes, they can reach us that way. And of course, you know, but by calling the museum You know, we've got a big chunk of real estate in downtown Bellingham. And we'll be opening as soon as it's safe to do so we already have plenty of safety things in. We've always been concerned about safety here. Obviously dealing with the equipment we have and sanitation, so forth, doing all that school groups. So, we've taken up a notch and we'll let everybody know and we're just and our docents are more excited than ever to share the collection with the students, the kids, the community. And we really appreciate Scott, you're showing some interest in us we really do and we look forward to having you come visit and have you give a great give you a great time.
Scott Cowan : I'm looking forward to coming over to Bellingham and taking a look at this. It looks fascinating to me and I think I think it'll be well I know we didn't cover a lot of topics about what you guys have there. So that's part of it got to come and see some of the other stuff that you have that's really cool. But I'm really looking forward to coming in and taking a look through the the museum and I don't know if I'll stand inside the cage but I might you know, I mean that's that's pretty spectacular looking. Visually that's pretty spectacular looking.
Tana Granack : No matter how you do it, you know, you don't have to go in to have a great time. That's all you know, but but but it's An unusual experience to see. And again, you know, we talked about earlier that the great thing about our jobs here is we have such dynamic equipment to work with. And it's, it's a lot easier to let the lightning do the talking for you. So that's what I'm really looking forward to to having you actually see some of this and not just hear about it. Awesome. Well, thank you very much. This was very enjoyable for me and so I'm sure people will enjoy listening to it or have enjoyed listening to it. And guys, go take a look at the Spark Museum of Electrical Invention in Bellingham. I think it's going to be worth your time. Thanks a lot. Love to have you.
Announcer : Join us next time for another episode of The Exploring Washington State Podcast.