Antoinette F. Downing Volunteer Service Award

Robert W. Merriam, founder and driving force of the New England Wireless and Steam Museum in East Greenwich, was honored with the Antoinette F. Downing Volunteer Service Award at major statewide conference on April 18, 1998.

Bob Merriam was honored with Rhode Island’s highest historic preservation award at major statewide conference on Saturday, April 18, at Roger Williams University in Bristol, Rhode Island. Over 400 people attended this year’s conference titled “Preservation Begins At Home: Maintaining Community Character.”

Founder and driving force of the New England Wireless and Steam Museum, Inc., Merriam’s lifelong interest in electronics and technology led to establishing the museum in 1964 to preserve and exhibit marvels of engineering, especially in radio and steam power.

The citation, presented by Edward F. Sanderson, Executive Director of the Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission, recognizes that “Bob Merriam has devoted thirty five years toward preserving important components of the state’s technological history through an institution important far beyond the state of Rhode Island.”

Supported and staffed solely by volunteers, the Wireless and Steam Museum has rescued and preserved two historic Rhode Island buildings and countless industrial and engineering artifacts. First housed in an old cow barn, the museum complex now comprises half a dozen structures. Chief among its collections are America’s oldest equipped wireless station (moved from Point Judith) and the only working George H. Corliss steam engine, manufactured in Providence and rescued from a factory in Maine.

Through a newsletter, restoration projects, interpretive programs and the annual “Yankee Steam-Up” at the museum, Merriam continues to share his extraordinary knowledge with the public and to arouse the curiosity and interest of thousands of Rhode Islanders in the achievements of the past.