Pinball Museum — Play All Day For $10

That’s right, this museum wants you to play with its treasures and $10 gets you one entire day of unlimited play; you can even leave and return during the same day of purchase. Seen here is Joe Paquin, one of the co-founders, along with Emily Rose and Michael Pare, of the Electromagnetic Pinball Museum and Restoration in Pawtucket. Joe, retired from the Pilgrim High physics department, is posing in front of the wedge-head models in the electro-mechanic section. The wedge-heads have large bells and chimes and “tend to be a little louder than the other machines — nothing is electronically generated.”

This exchange reminded Emily to promote the Providence chapter of “Belles and Chimes,” an international network of women’s pinball leagues. They are scheduled for a “knockout” at Pizza J on February 13th. And the New England Pinball League plays at the museum Tuesdays at 7pm.

Further into the first floor are the more modern, computerized machines, and up on the second floor there is more of . . . everything. Museum curator and floormaster, Michael, showed me around. Among the gems is a Star Trek unit, found on the side of the road in Connecticut courtesy of an angry ex-wife. Michael purchased it, popped in a few new fuses, and brought it to the RI Comic Con where it was signed (under the glass, on the bow tie) by Nichelle Nichols, George Takei, and William Shatner! Michael is a fan of artist Kevin O’Connor who executed the art on both the playfield and the backglass. (I am learning the terminology.) And Shatner autographed another piece after he had returned from his space trip! So now I know someone who knows Shatner.

Where do all these machines come from? Motif Magazine wrote up the museum last fall:

Rose says, “We’ve been open for about two and a half years, but we’ve been collecting for about a decade. Our machines were found on Craigslist and Facebook mostly, and we did a lot of work on them.” Pare adds, “They come from all over the place! Sometimes people donate the machines to us because we’re a nonprofit. We appreciate three in memoriam. We found two on the side of the road. One was found in a tent on Martha’s Vineyard!”

Call ahead to arrange a big group or large party. The pinball life is where fun intersects with STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics). From the museum:

Our mission at Electromagnetic Pinball Museum and Restoration is to foster a love and appreciation for history, science technology, engineering, arts and mathematics through interactive pinball exhibits. We here at Electromagnetic Pinball take an active role in the community by running programs and events to educate the public about the importance of keeping this fun part of science, history, art and culture alive.

And it’s not just pinball education and preservation. The museum also participates in Project Pinball which places pinball machines in children’s hospitals.

A small photo on the wall honors Roger Sharpe, known as the man who saved pinball. This crazy New York story (fun lawyering too) has been made into a movie which I have not seen. (WashPo 3.26.23)

Open every day: 10am to 9pm. Travel north on Main Street, past The Met, to Thurston (at the stoplight). Take a sharp left and you are there. Parking in both upper and lower lot. Enter through the colorful mural.

$10, Pinball Museum, 881 Main Street, Pawtucket, (directions)


These people seem to enjoy a high degree of job satisfaction as well as each other’s company. Michael is seen here deferring to Emily’s technical skills. She went to the Worcester Polytechnic Institute and is probably overqualified for pinball repair; nonetheless she dove right in.

Michael upstairs with some old woodrail machines. I love the geometric motifs painted on the sides.

Jurassic Park, Rush, the Addams Family, Dolly Parton, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Led Zepellin, Bobby Orr, Mata Hari . . .

Star Trek, 1979. You can see where O’Connor signed the backglass on the unidentified planet.




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