TILT! A New National Pinball Museum to Open in Washington, D.C.

This antique Criss Cross A-Lite pinball machine will be one of many to be houses—and played—in the National Pinball Museum, scheduled to open later this summer in Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C.

A Maryland man who owns some 900 pinball machines plans to open a public museum devoted to the pastime in Washington, D.C.

David Silverman, 62, currently operates The National Pinball Museum out of a small warehouse in his backyard in suburban, Maryland. Later this summer, Silverman will move part of his collection into an upscale shopping mall in the Georgetown neighborhood of the nation’s Capitol.

Silverman plans a public non-profit museum that will host historical exhibits, pinball-related films, classes on topics such as woodworking and a rotating selection of pinball games for the public.

Four months ago, Silverman got an offer from the Shops at Georgetown Park to house the museum rent-free for two years, an offer he says he couldn’t refuse.

Taking over space previously occupied by an F.A.O. Schwartz outlet in the Shops at Georgetown Park, the museum will be a shrine to one of America’s most fascinating cultural icons. The museum will include a theater showing movies about pinball, classrooms and teaching areas, a permanent exhibit on the history of pinball and, best of all, a rotating collection of playable pinball games.

Visitors to the new, 14,000-square-foot location will pay a $13.50 entrance fee for access to the exhibits, library, theater, classroom, restoration room, gift shop and pay-to-play room. The museum will be open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday, starting in September.

Silverman’s goal in building his collection over the years has been to gather historically significant machines, either because of their rarity or because they are representative of the age in which they were built, from the 1870s to the modern day.

For example, who can forget these lyrics from “Pinball Wizard,” The Who’s 1968 rock opera “Tommy” (which was made into a movie in 1975)?

“Ever since I was a young boy
I’ve played the silver ball
From Soho down to Brighton
I must have played them all
But I ain’t seen nothing like him
In any amusement hall
That deaf, dumb and blind kid
Sure plays a mean pinball.”

The Who's "Tommy" album cover.

Besides just being fun to play, the best pinball machines are a delightful mix of engineering and graphic art that reflects the changing tastes of American culture.

They carry such classic titles as Banzai Run; Daily Races; Guns ‘N Roses; Jockey Club; Creature from the Black Lagoon; Indiana Jones; Queen of Hearts; The Rolling Stones; Kiss; Dolly Parton; and Heavy Metal Meltdown.

According to Silverman, the heyday of pinball was in the 1960s and 1970s—before video games hit the market. Only one company—Stern Pinball in Illinois—still makes the machines. Silverman values some of his machines at thousands of dollars, adding that collectors willingly pay $5,000 and up for rare machine at conventions or on eBay.

Says Silverman: “The museum will offer a history lesson, but a fun history lesson. This will be the most fun national museum in Washington.”

For more information, visit www.nationalpinballmuseum.org.


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