Select from the images below to find out more about the objects in the BBC Collection.
Marconi Round-Sykes magnetophone moving coil, 1923
Within six months of the start of broadcasting by the BBC, this new improved microphone was introduced. It was used for the famous 1924 outside broadcasts of the song of a nightingale singing along with cellist Beatrice Harrison in her garden in Oxted, Surrey.
Sound was picked up by a moving coil, positioned within a very powerful magnet. It was so sensitive that sounds such as buzzing insects were picked up for the first time.
Listen to a voice recording of the Marconi-Round Sykes magnetophone.
Marconi-Reiss Marble Microphone, 1925
Reiss (Reisz), Marconi's Wireless Telegraph Co. Ltd.
This carbon microphone needed to be turned over daily to prevent the granules inside from settling. Although not nearly so sensitive as the earlier Round-Sykes microphone, it was far more widely used by the BBC because it did not require the same very high level of amplification
Listen to a voice recording of the Marconi-Reiss Marble microphone.
The Bomb Microphone, 1933
Standard Telephone and Cables Ltd.
This type of microphone was used to broadcast the abdication address of King Edward VIII over the BBC network from Windsor Castle on 10 December, 1936.
Its unusually-shaped aluminium housing contains a single-valve amplifier, which is needed because of the very weak signal produced by the microphone itself.
This microphone was very sensitive to humidity changes, and therefore never used for outside broadcasts.
Crystal Set Radio, 1922
Crystal set radios were relatively inexpensive to build, and did not require valves or batteries. The contact between a crystalline mineral and a spring of wire (known as a 'cat's whisker') was adjusted until a signal was received.
They were most listeners' first step into the world of radio, and a culture of home radio experimenting developed. Wives became 'wireless widows' as it was usually men who immersed themselves in this new hobby.
Lip Microphone, 1937
BBC, Marconi, Type L
This microphone was specially designed by the BBC to cancel out unwanted background noise during outside broadcasts. A metal guard ring at the front gives a precise speaking distance of 2.5 inches when pressed against the top lip. For this reason these microphones became known as Lip microphones.
The essential design has never been improved upon, and microphones like this are still in use today.
Big Ben Microphone, 1924
Standard Telephone and Cables Ltd.
To usher in 1924, Big Ben was broadcast for the first time. Later, microphones were permanently installed inside the clock tower and connected directly to Broadcasting House.
This moving coil microphone is one of a number that were used over the years. Its low sensitivity allowed it to be installed right by the bell, and cut out unwanted street noise.
Chakophone Radio, 1927
There is a switch on the front of the Chakophone radio to tune in to BBC broadcasts on medium wave, and an XX setting to receive long wave stations. It required external batteries for power, and could be listened to with headphones or a loud speaker.
As radio increased in popularity, sets became larger and more sophisticated - the more valves, the better. Deluxe models were given ornate traditional or modern wooden cabinetsm and floor-standing sets in particular began to take on the visual appearance of furniture.
Biscuit Tin Radio, 1943
British Government Miniature Communications Receiver, Mark 1 (MCR1)
During World War II, these compact radios were hidden inside biscuit tins and dropped by parachute. They were crucial to resistance fighters in Europe because the Germans had confiscated all normal civilian radios.
BBC London's public broadcasts were used to communicate with resistance groups by using obscure 'personal messages' which had secret meanings.
Marconi AXBT microphone, c.1944
Used by George Orwell, Winston Churchill, Charles De Gaulle, and others, the Type A is iconic, symbolising the early BBC.
The AXBT was the 4th generation design of the original Type A microphone (X, B and T representing improvements) widely used by the BBC from 1934 onwards.
EMI Emitron camera, 1936
Post-war television re-started with the pre-war studio equipment. Shortages of money and resources meant that this Emitron camera, supplied to the BBC in 1936 was still being used to make programmes well into the 1950s.
What's in the BBC Collection and what era does it cover?
The BBC Collection is a fascinating mixture of 946 objects including historic technology, props, and day to day artefacts from 1922 to 2002. The survival of these objects is largely down to the efforts of BBC staff who saved things for posterity.
Why did we acquire the collection?
This acquisition is an ideal opportunity to better document the history of Britain's largest broadcaster while enhancing our existing collections of television and radio equipment. Find out more about the acquisition in this short film.
Where can you see the BBC Collection?
A number of objects from the BBC Collection are stored in Insight, our collections and research centre here in Bradford. These include the 'Big Ben' microphone (1924), 'The Bomb' microphone (1933), an AXBT microphone (c. 1944), a 'Biscuit Tin' radio (1943) the 'Poo Cam' (c. 1965), the Blattnerphone (1930), and 2 Emitron television cameras (1936). The rest of the objects are stored at the Science Museum Group's main storage facility in Wroughton.
For more information about the BBC Collection and to enquire about viewing objects which are not on public display, contact our collections access assistant by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the BBC
The BBC was Britain's first official broadcaster, founded in 1922 by a private consortium of 6 radio manufacturers to stimulate the sales of radio sets.
5 years later, John Reith's vision changed the BBC from the British Broadcasting Company into the British Broadcasting Corporation, with a royal charter that it is still governed by today and his famous public service vision - to 'inform, educate and entertain'. The first broadcast came from London on 14 November 1922, and over the next few years, 'listening-in' became a popular national pastime.
Today, the BBC is the largest broadcaster in the world, and a massive multi-media organisation. As well as having an enormous effect on British culture, it has been extremely influential on an international scale, acting as an exporter and ambassador of British culture.
Read more about the BBC Collection on our blog