The Radio Corporation of America (RCA) Heritage Program Museum opened in September of 2011 on the fourth floor of the Campbell Library. The museum is filled with nearly 4,000 different items that once belonged to RCA during its operations in Camden, New Jersey.
In 1950, RCA purchased the Victor Talking Machine Company, a phonograph company in Camden, changing the company name to RCA Victor. The site went on to produce hundreds of thousands of records, of which, the museum currently possess over 400, as well as rare publications, more than 200 corporate personal notes, original documents and RCA-produced WWII equipment.
But none of those items are as highly treasured as a window from the building of the original Market Street location. Contained in the RCA Heritage Museum is a stained glass window of Nipper the canine looking into a phonograph. This iconic image of Nipper, who served as the dog in the painting “His Master’s Voice,” became the basis of the logo used for the Gramophone Company, located in Britain, and its American counterpart, The Victor Talking Machine Company, in 1901. Since that time, the logo has reached stardom in the states, due to RCA’s prominence.
At the top of the Nipper Building, there were four stained glass windows. First installed in 1915, the 14 1/2-inch diameter windows were illuminated at night over the Camden skyline. Shortly after the introduction of a new logo, RCA Records removed the four windows in 1969. These original four windows are now in the possession of The Smithsonian Museum, Widener University, the Camden County Historical Society and Rowan University.
“Penn State originally had the window,” said Joseph Pane, the deputy director of the RCA Heritage Museum. “They sent us an email asking if we were interested, and of course we were.”
Pane believes Penn State choose Rowan University to house the original stained glass window because they stand apart from other RCA Societies and Clubs.
“RCA has a thousand organizations across the United States, but when they saw that ours wanted to revive the legacy of RCA in South Jersey, there was no question about it,” Pane said.
The window arrived in August of 2013 and has sat in a crate locked on the sixth floor of Campbell Library since then. The 100-year-old window is in poor condition and needs to be refurbished. The metal support has suffered decades of corrosion and exposure to the natural elements has left the glass in delicate shape.
But after over 100 years spent towering over a city, being locked away in storage, a stint at Penn State and in storage at Rowan, the window will finally get its chance to shine, thanks to Emily Selvin, who just so happens to be a descendant of someone in the RCA corporation.
Established in 1999, Selvin Glass is a full-service studio in Pennsylvania offering original creations as well as the restoration and conservation of stained glass windows. Selvin owns the company and has 19 years of experience in glass work. Her grandfather, Ben Selvin, was a band leader who received three gold records with RCA Records for his musical creations.
“It has to be me [to restore the window],” Selvin said. “It’s the serendipity of this event that makes a story.”
Selvin is familiar with the window and has recreated a few for other RCA society members in the past.
“I have already fabricated four of them, so I have an excellent understanding of the windows and would be well equipped to restore another one,” Selvin said. “It would give me great pleasure to restore the window, as [it is] original and it is highly likely that my grandfather would have looked directly at [it] at one time.”
George Macey, a junior history major at Rowan, started volunteering at the RCA Heritage Program Museum in February of this year. Macey has always been interested in technology and learning the history of it, which sparked his interest in the RCA internship available at the museum.
“Rowan is a major South Jersey university and RCA was also a major South Jersey company,” Macey said. “As Rowan builds, the university’s influence is spreading. Rowan should get more of a grip of South Jersey and the culture and history.”
Macey also discussed the attention the window would bring to Rowan from other RCA retirees and clubs across the United States.
“If people affiliated with the RCA company heard about the window, they might feel inclined to come and visit Rowan to see the original artwork,” Macey said.
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