John M. Rivers Communication Museum

ATTENTION: Public services and hours for the John M. Rivers Communication Museum will be SUSPENDED until further notice for renovations and repairs starting TUESDAY, JULY 28, 2015.

Headquartered at 58 George St. in the historic Elliot House (1803) on the campus of the College of Charleston, the John M. Rivers Communication Museum holds a wonderful collection of antique radios, televisions, phonographs, telephones, magic lanterns, motion picture projectors, and other items related to the history and entertainment of the communications and broadcasting fields. The museum offers individual and group tours, a variety of educational programs for grades K-12, and many events related to both topical social issues and communications history.

History of the John Rivers Communication Museum

The John River’s Communication Museum’s collection was formerly housed in the WCSC Broadcast Museum at 80 Alexander Street and was an educational extension of WCSC, Inc. The museum was originally conceived in 1975 by John M. Rivers, Sr. and John M. Rivers, Jr. as an educational repository for original broadcast equipment formerly used by WCSC. It also included artifacts brought from the Seigling Music House, located on King Street, and later incorporated the Hanson Collection. The museum, which was operated by curator Patsy Hicken, closed in 1981 after Ms. Hicken’s death.

The museum then re-opened by appointment only through Gloria Wilson, Vice President and General Manager of WCSC Radio. Then, in 1988, College of Charleston President Harry M. Lightsey, Jr. accepted an endowment from the Rivers family for the establishment of the John Rivers Communications Museum at 58 George Street on the college campus.

Ken Hanson (1912-1999), of Clearwater, Florida, collected the majority of the beautiful display items in our museum. Mr. Hanson began his collection in 1930 while operating a chain of motion picture theaters in central Florida using portable equipment and the new “sound-on-film” movies.

John Rivers, Sr. (1903-1988), after whom our museum was named, spent his life in Charleston, SC, where he enjoyed a distinguished career in broadcasting. From 1938 to 1973 he was president of WCSC, Inc. (“Wonderful Charleston, South Carolina”).

WCSC, which began on May 14, 1930 as an AM radio station, is the oldest broadcast station in Charleston. Since June 19, 1953 it has been the oldest television station in continuous operation in the state of South Carolina.

Educational Programs for K-12

The museum offers a variety of programs for students K-12 that are designed to be both educational and entertaining.

  • Museum tours
  • Sensory Awareness Demonstrations
  • Scavenger Hunt (Communications History Game)
  • Old Time Radio & TV Shows
  • Musical Selections from our vast Record Library
  • Magic Lantern Slides
  • Classic Animation & Short Feature Films from the Origins of Cinema
  • Multicultural, Educational & Storybook Videos

Museum tours are personally guided by our staff and can be tailored to different lengths or areas of interest. Visitors are presented with historical and cultural information on the inventions as well as many demonstrations of these entertaining machines. The sensory awareness demonstrations include Victorian optical toys, 3-D photography, depth perception, Sound Bites (hear music inside your head like Thomas Edison did), a sine wave generator, and the Theremin (a musical instrument you play without touching). Our student tours may be given with a scavenger hunt. This interactive game (for grades three and higher) consists of questions and clues based on specific objects in each of our exhibit rooms.

At the end of the tour, students are given a chance to view a film, listen to an early radio program or watch a magic lantern show. Radio was once known as “the theatre of the mind” because it stimulated the imagination. Beautiful projected images from magic lantern slides can tell visual stories, as they were often made in series form on a variety of subjects and are shown in sequence.

For those groups who have lessons on inventions, inventors, and the media, the museum is a great place to explore the early days of communications. History, science, arts, and social studies groups will also find a wealth of information and resources. Learn while having fun!

If desired, groups may be shared with the Avery Institute of African American History and Culture, also a part of the College of Charleston.

Scheduling a visit for K-12

  • Determine the date and time for your visit.
  • Be sure to check on the availability of buses or other transportation for the dates you have chosen.
  • Call the museum and include the following information:

Name of contact person

School or organization and address

Telephone number (with area code) and “best time to call”

Age/grade level and size of group

Specific program (group tour or special event)

Transportation (Will you be coming by bus, van, car, or walking?)

If the date and time for the program you selected is available, you will receive a confirmation including a map indicating the location of the museum and parking instructions.

GROUP SIZE: Our tours are usually kept to a maximum of 25 students. This is done to ensure students receive the most out of their experience. With larger groups, students are divided into smaller tours.

ADMISSION: All of our tours and special events are free of charge, as we are a non-profit organization.

CHAPERONES: All chaperones are required to stay with their group at all times. It is the responsibility of the chaperones to make sure the students in their group behave themselves appropriately in the museum.

ARRIVAL TIME: Please arrange for your group to arrive fifteen minutes before your scheduled program.

LATE ARRIVAL: Bad weather? Sick Child? Transportation Problems? Please give us a call if you know that you are running late! We will make every effort to accommodate you or to reschedule your visit.

CANCELLATION/RESCHEDULING/CHANGES: Call the museum if you need to cancel for any reason. In the event no one is available to take your call (i.e. you call after museum hours), please leave a message on the answering machine. We will be happy to reschedule. Also, please let us know if the size of your group changes significantly (decrease or increase) from what is indicated on your confirmation.

SNACKS/LUNCH: The courtyard located beside the museum is a great spot for bag lunches on sunny days.

SPECIAL NEEDS: Please inform us of any special needs that your students may have when you make your reservations. Special note: due to its structure, the museum is unable to offer full accessibility for those with physical disabilities.

Resource Center
Looking for books, videos, or radio programs to enhance your lesson plans? Ask us about materials you can check out on loan. Students, as well, can check out available materials for class projects. Contact the museum for more information.

Rick Zender, Curator

Communications Museum
58 George Street
Charleston, South Carolina 29424
Phone 843.953.5810 | Fax 843.953.5915

Hours of operation: Monday – Friday, 12:00 – 4:00 p.m., except College of Charleston holidays