Case Research Lab

The Case Research Laboratory sits immediately behind the Willard-Case mansion that now houses the Cayuga Museum. It was here, in the 1920’s, that Theodore Case invented the first commercially successful system of recording sound on film. Talking movies were born here!

Theodore Willard Case, an Auburn native, founded the Case Research Lab with his father, Willard Case, in 1916. It is on this site where the first commercially successfully system of sound film was invented.

The Case Research Lab Museum exhibits the working spaces of the darkroom, chemistry lab, and recording studio; the first sound camera; experimental recording equipment; and a history of the commercialization of sound film including such ventures as Phonofilms, Fox-Case Movietone, and Fox Films (now 20th Century Fox).

The research, restoration, and interpretation of the buildings and archives of the lab began in 1990. Since then, a great deal of history has been unearthed from dozens of notebooks, thousands of pages of correspondence, and many other lab archives. The interpretation of the Case Research Lab’s place in history continues to be an ongoing process. With the completion of the newly renovated carriage house, now named Theater Mack, the Museum is looking to the future and a large scale redesign of the CRL exhibit to include Case’s sound studio on the second floor of the carriage house.

Come take a guided tour and learn more about the world changing inventions of the Case Research Lab.




Case Research Lab Collection

The Case Research Lab collection contains the equipment, complete lab notebooks, volumes of technical drawings and photographs, extensive business and personal correspondence, manuscripts and reports, patents, receipts, and scrapbooks spanning the 18 year history of the Lab. From 1996-1998 staff undertook the task of cataloguing the collection in preparation for the development of the CRL exhibit and the publication of Breaking the Silence on Film. The collection also includes archival materials from Earl Sponable, which were donated to the Cayuga Museum by his daughter, Catherine “Mimo” Sponable, in the 1990s.

For more information on research and the collections and research in our archives click here.