Emile Berliner Museum of Sound – Montreal, Québec - Atlas Obscura
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Montreal, Québec

Emile Berliner Museum of Sound

This indiscriminate collection of audio antiques is trying to preserve the history of the audio industry one vintage appliance at a time. 

The Emile Berliner Museum of Sound is a cluttered collection of televisions, phonographs, and other artifacts that honor the history of produced sound held in a factory that used to produce the very machines it displays. 

This fascinating, quasi-hidden museum of sound is tucked away on the second floor of a vast industrial loft which was once a former gramophone factory founded early in the 20th century by Emile Berliner, one of the pioneers of sound recording. A Jewish-German inventor who emigrated to Canada in the last years of the 19th century, Berliner became one of the most influential inventors in the field of produced audio. Among Berliner’s most famous creations are the microphones used for Alexander Graham Bell’s first telephone, and the first flat records including the gramophones to play them on and the mastering process to mass-produce them. These innovations in particular were major leaps forward over the wax-cylinder system pioneered by Berliner’s (and everyone’s) rival Thomas Edison.

The Berliner Museum houses a small but fascinating collection of audio recording technology and related artifacts. Its mandate is the preservation and exhibition of any object related to the history and evolution of the creation, production, reproduction, recording and broadcasting of sound. The Museum also collects acoustical and architectural plans and other documents related to sites important in the audio industry. Old televisions, rusted bell phonographs, children’s record players, and countless pieces of ephemera are collected on packed shelves. The space looks looks more like a 1950’s pawn shop than a sound museum. 

The cramped collection is a bit challenging to find, so asking for directions is recommended, but for those interested in finding the space, it is only open on weekends. 

 

Know Before You Go

The Museum is located at a former RCA Victor gramophone factory, now an industrial loft, not far from the Saint-Henri metro (subway) station. You may want to call in advance for specific directions, because finding the tiny museum even within the building isn't always easy.