Niagara Gazette

Features

November 16, 2010

NIAGARA SCIENCE MUSEUM: Checking the wattage on electrifying gift

NIAGARA FALLS — The old knife switch looks like something out of a Frankenstein movie.

Randy Boersig had only seen one other like it and that was at the Henry Ford Museum. But when he decided to part with all of his antique electrical artifacts, he donated them all to the Niagara Science Museum.

Actually, there were two giant knife switches donated. Built during a time when electricity was in its infancy, the pieces may not be precious but they and the other artifacts donated by Boersig are giving the struggling Niagara Science Museum the kind of priceless credibility it needs to receive attention from the world.

The little museum is finding its way onto all kinds of weird and interesting Internet locations, often with the help of fans. Consider this recent post from yelp.com: “I’ve never seen anything like it and (it is) completely off the beaten path.”

A reviewer on tripadvisor.com wrote that the museum is “the founder’s lifelong love affair. You can still smell the fresh paint and feel the shoe string budget but, probably, this is how best things are built.”

Nick Dalacu has compared creating the three-year-old museum to “pushing a train all by yourself. It starts moving and you keep going and it goes faster and faster.”

The museum, recently listed as one of the “best things to do in Niagara Falls,” by AOL.com, is located on Highland Boulevard, near the edge of the city, bordering on abandoned industrial acreage, it appears to be a revelation to science and antique lovers.

Boersig was recently in Niagara Falls to see the museum and his donated collection.

“I thought it was pretty neat,” said Boersig from his home in St. Louis, Mo. “He's got some really rare stuff ... if he can keep it growing like that it's going to be a wonderful museum.”

Clearly a work in progress, Dalacu, 70, has received the support of volunteers from all walks of life, from students at the University of Buffalo who helped him with the museum displays, to retired physics teachers. He persevere to become a teaching location and entertainment location for the community and the world. Last year he listed as one of the “top ten museums for geeks” in the world by the website atlasobscura.com.

“People don’t understand the value these things bring to a community,” Dalacu said recently, standing in the main room at his museum, as Pink Floyd played quietly on the sound system in the background.

As Dalacu walked down one hallway he pointed to where a donated minicomputer about the size of two phone booths lay on its back. “The cell phone has more intelligence, and holds more data capabilities than this,” he said with a smile. “It was built in the 1970s and only 30 years have passed,” he said, by way explaining why someone should be saving all the pieces of such dated technology.

The donated collection from Boersig, which was put in place over the last year, is now the cornerstone of the museum Dalacu said, worth in excess of $10,000.

The donations included two extremely rare, giant meters, used to test electricity in commercial buildings around the turn of the century. The pieces are physical remnants of the days inventor Edward Weston and Thomas Edison battled over the best way of transmitting electrical power using alternating or direct current — alternating won.

Boersig, a retired tractor trailer service manager, had been collecting the parts and pieces over the years. When he decided he needed to put them where people could enjoy them, he found Dalacu online and sent him pictures via e-mail.

“Nick was shocked. He called me and said, ‘this stuff is museum quality.’ I said, ‘yeah, I know.’ ”

“Once these things are gone, you can’t replace them,” Boersig added. “Some of these are in hand-built cases and (even) the cases are beautiful.”

Dalacu is reverent about the gifts. “The bottom line is these things belong in a serious, serious science museum.”

“Just because they’re here,” Dalacu added, “Our museum is a serious science museum.”

Contact reporter Michele DeLuca at 282-2311, ext. 2263.

 

at 282-2311, ext. 2263.

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