Spoof5.2.2

Telephony museums

23 posts in this topic

Has anyone visited any telephone company museums? I went to one in London run by BT that closed in the late 90s( http://www.samhallas.co.uk/bt_museum/index.htm ) , and another one in Gridley, IL ( http://www.telephonemuseumofgridley.org/ )

I am going on a trip to the midwest (Chicago/Milwaukee area) and I am wondering if anyone knows of any telco or related museum in the area.

I have found a couple of lists online but they seem out of date. (mostly this one pops up: http://www.nationalitpa.com/default.asp?id=30 but most of the email addresses listed there bounce back.) This one looks more up to date: http://www.oldphoneworks.com/links.html

I plan to follow up with some phone calls (especially for the 2 listings in WI since I will be in Milwaukee)

I heard there was a good museum in Seattle (I think there was a presentation on this at the Next Hope conference) but I have not made it to WA yet.

So;

1) Anyone know of any good telco museums in the Chicago/Milwaukee area and

2) Anyone have any good stories about telco museums in general? I might be able to dig up some pictures of Gridley if anyone is interested.

Here are a few listings I found onlne that I want to get to eventually, if they still exist:

The Museum of Communications

P.O. Box 81103,

Seattle, Washington (WA) 98108, USA

Telephone Pioneers of America Museum

445 Commack Rd

Commack, NY 11725

Verizon TelecomPioneers Museum of Virginia

713 E. Grace Street

Richmond, VA 23219

Phone: 804-772-1118

Telephone Pioneer Museum of Texas Museum at One Bell Plaza

208 S Ackard

Dallas TX 214 464-4359

Telephone Pioneers Museum showcasing the history of the Blue Ridge Telephone Pioneers.

Lenoir, NC. (828) 728-4511.

Edited by Spoof5.2.2
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never been to any museums anywhere where you are going..

did visit the house/museum of the true inventor of the telephone on staten island NY http://pub1.andyswebtools.com/cgi-bin/p/awtp-home.cgi?d=garibaldi-meucci-museum

unfortunately very little in the way of telephone stuff at the place - pretty much just a replica of the phone that he invented...

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never been to any museums anywhere where you are going..

did visit the house/museum of the true inventor of the telephone on staten island NY http://pub1.andyswebtools.com/cgi-bin/p/awtp-home.cgi?d=garibaldi-meucci-museum

unfortunately very little in the way of telephone stuff at the place - pretty much just a replica of the phone that he invented...

Thanks NYPJ! I will check it out next time I am down in NYC. PS; just north of you (1.5 hour MetroNorth or Amtrack ride) is Samuel Morse's house Locust Grove ( http://www.lgny.org/ )

Edited by Spoof5.2.2
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never been to any museums anywhere where you are going..

did visit the house/museum of the true inventor of the telephone on staten island NY http://pub1.andyswebtools.com/cgi-bin/p/awtp-home.cgi?d=garibaldi-meucci-museum

unfortunately very little in the way of telephone stuff at the place - pretty much just a replica of the phone that he invented...

Thanks NYPJ! I will check it out next time I am down in NYC. PS; just north of you (1.5 hour MetroNorth or Amtrack ride) is Samuel Morse's house Locust Grove ( http://www.lgny.org/ )

honestly - i would not bother recommending checking out Meucci's home unless you are in the area... if you take a trip just for that, then you will be disappointed... much of the museum focuses on his house guest Garibaldi, who helped lead Italy into its independence.

I will have to check out Samuel Morse's place some time.. another place that would be great to find would be Elisha Gray's place if that is around still...

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I drove by a telephone museum in Fredonia, NY which is not on the list. I think they were open one day a week, and the rest by appointment. I wasn't lucky enough to have time to stop in, but I may be able to go back in the next year or two.

http://www.telecommunicationsmuseum.org/

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never been to any museums anywhere where you are going..

did visit the house/museum of the true inventor of the telephone on staten island NY http://pub1.andyswebtools.com/cgi-bin/p/awtp-home.cgi?d=garibaldi-meucci-museum

unfortunately very little in the way of telephone stuff at the place - pretty much just a replica of the phone that he invented...

Thanks NYPJ! I will check it out next time I am down in NYC. PS; just north of you (1.5 hour MetroNorth or Amtrack ride) is Samuel Morse's house Locust Grove ( http://www.lgny.org/ )

honestly - i would not bother recommending checking out Meucci's home unless you are in the area... if you take a trip just for that, then you will be disappointed... much of the museum focuses on his house guest Garibaldi, who helped lead Italy into its independence.

I will have to check out Samuel Morse's place some time.. another place that would be great to find would be Elisha Gray's place if that is around still...

The website did seem to be more about Italian independence than anything else... But I will eventually get to NY for some other reason and will check it out.

I never looked into if Elisha Gray has a museum or site but I do very much want to see Edison's lab. When I thought of it, they were closed for a year or so for renovations, and then I got busy with other stuff..

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I drove by a telephone museum in Fredonia, NY which is not on the list. I think they were open one day a week, and the rest by appointment. I wasn't lucky enough to have time to stop in, but I may be able to go back in the next year or two.

http://www.telecommunicationsmuseum.org/

Cool! I did not know about this one... adding it to my list :wink:

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If you can make it to the Museum of Communications in Seattle, by all means do so.

Here's a link to the pictures that I took when I was there in 2005.

http://www.phworld.org/moc/index.htm

Great site! I saw a presentation on this museum in either The Next Hope or The Last Hope. Was that you presenting??

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I've been to the Seattle museum myself. It definitely holds up to their reputation of being...well, more or less the granddaddy of phone museums. There' s working examples of almost any kind of electromechanical switch you can dream of there, it's a little disorienting really for someone like me. After being raised on a DMS-100 and 5ESS all my life, the whole concept - down to the minute differences in how the equipment responds to being on and off hook at inopportune times - is really almost disorienting. All things considered, I think I took a liking to the 3ESS the most, just for being a compromise between the two.

Also, many of the phones on the truly electromechanical switches didn't have varistors in them - so whenever you get some form of normally loud click like a battery drop, it comes out deafeningly loud. This made them a little unfriendly to being played with.

In all, though, a friend volunteered there at the time, so the tour speed was very leisurely and hands-on, but informative at the same time. Really, my only regrets are that I haven't gone again, and didn't record it.

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We took a BR407 field trip to the Maitland Phone Museum one month a while back. It was a small local telco in central Florida. We even took video for HackTV but never got time to put it out. A couple of us (Cheshire and myself) volunteered to help them get organized and scan in some old manuals but they got all weird and insisted that we would only make them available for a fee on the web site so I pulled out of that project. If I am willing to scan them for free then they should release them for free.

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I also noticed that Mark Bernay (phonetrips) mentioned on the binrev twitter feed the following comments:

The museum in Seattle is really good, but only open limited days so call first.

also

Forgot name, but supposed to be good one in Ellsworth, Maine.
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Great site! I saw a presentation on this museum in either The Next Hope or The Last Hope. Was that you presenting??

Sorry, that wasn't me. There are a number of people who have visited that museum and presented it on various websites and TV shows.

I've been to the Seattle museum myself. It definitely holds up to their reputation of being...well, more or less the granddaddy of phone museums. There' s working examples of almost any kind of electromechanical switch you can dream of there, it's a little disorienting really for someone like me. After being raised on a DMS-100 and 5ESS all my life, the whole concept - down to the minute differences in how the equipment responds to being on and off hook at inopportune times - is really almost disorienting. All things considered, I think I took a liking to the 3ESS the most, just for being a compromise between the two.

Also, many of the phones on the truly electromechanical switches didn't have varistors in them - so whenever you get some form of normally loud click like a battery drop, it comes out deafeningly loud. This made them a little unfriendly to being played with.

The next time I go to Seattle (hopefully sooner than later), I will take various recording mechanisms to record the phone calls. And also take a very good video camera.

I'm old enough that I remember these older switches first hand, so the #5XB was fun to play with again.

In all, though, a friend volunteered there at the time, so the tour speed was very leisurely and hands-on, but informative at the same time. Really, my only regrets are that I haven't gone again, and didn't record it.

Was this Duncan who is/was in the process of getting the 3ESS operational? I haven't conversed with him in a while. Supposedly he was going to put the museum switches on the C*NET network so you can dial into them from the outside. (Fore more information - visit here https://www.ckts.info/)

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while on the topic I would like to remind my old old thread :

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One time I was on vacation with my family in Maine, and randomly happened upon the Ellsworth Telephone Museum. It was awesome. They have a working 3XB switch and an in-progress 5XB switch, as well as several other systems (manual operator panels, step-by-step, maybe more crossbar).

http://ellsworthme.org/ringring/exhibits.html

Edited by AriX
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anyone knows about this one ?

http://www.morton.edu/museum/index.html

I didn't know about that one, and it's not too far for me to go... Bookmarked!

I've been to the Gridley museum as well. Lots of older phones there, and the old Gridley manual board that was in service until 1972. It's too bad they didn't preserve the ITT crossbar switch that replaced the cord board. A few switching elements were on display, but nothing that would make a working switch. Friendly staff, happy to talk about the collection. It makes for a nice day trip from the Chicago area.

I was wearing a White Sox World 2005 World Series cap when I visited... the guy there said, "We don't see many Sox fans down here!" Strange how in central Illinois, everyone's either a Cubs or Cardinals fan. :)

I haven't had a chance to get out to Seattle, and haven't been in Maine since 1975 (on a family summer vacation when I was a kid).

As for C*NET, the Museum of Transport and Technology in Auckland, New Zealand has a presence. They have, among other things, the only surviving Western Electric 7A Rotary switch, built in Antwerp, Belgium before Bell sold off the international division to ITT. Rotary was a close cousin to Panel, as it used motor-driven selectors and revertive pulsing, but the switches were (naturally) rotary instead of vertical.

The early Rotary systems were designed around a reversed dial layout; one was installed in Oslo and the other went to New Zealand. My avatar shows an Oslo dial; in Norway, only Oslo used the reversed dial layout, while New Zealand adopted it countrywide, even with British-built SXS switches (which explains why their emergency number is 1-1-1 instead of 9-9-9).

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Update:
I've tried twice now to get in to see the Pioneers Museum in Lenoir, NC.  I actually found the woman who runs it, who seemed surprised that anyone would be interested in it, much less someone who was not a retired telco employee- though she did seem appreciative when I explained that I was just interested in telephones and their history.  Per her description, it is not a whole museum but rather a display area, and it is inside a locked building that is not owned by the Pioneers.  I tried once a couple of years ago and again earlier this summer.  This time,  I called 2 weeks prior to my planned visit and was still not able to get her to agree to let me in (I was nearby for a week and tried schedule a visit a few times that week).  I get the feeling that the few people involved with this display are getting on in years and may not be in a position to show people around, plus there are logistical issues because they can't always get permission to get into the building (which is owned by a non-telco related company now).  Anyway, if anyone is interested I can provide a name and contact number for this display.  Perhaps if several people got together the would be motivated to let us see it?

Edited by Spoof5.2.2
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I've been to the infamous one in Seattle back in 2005. I have pictures of my visit on my Telephone World website.

 

I want to go visit the one up in Maine someday.

 

The one in Virginia no longer exists, sadly. :(

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The one in Richmond? I thought they had a 4A? I hope someone managed to let it get to another museum unscathed.

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The one in Richmond? I thought they had a 4A? I hope someone managed to let it get to another museum unscathed.

 

Did some digging. They had to move it to a new location (I think the Grace Street central office in downtown Richmond). It is only open by appointment.

 

http://jackmansystems.com/telephonemuseum/index.html

Edited by dmine45
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I contacted the one in VA a couple of times last year.  They are open by appointment, and you can get on their email list to be notified of events, but they are rare.  I was in the VA area a couple of times but was never able to coordinate with them because they are not open often.

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I contacted the one in VA a couple of times last year.  They are open by appointment, and you can get on their email list to be notified of events, but they are rare.  I was in the VA area a couple of times but was never able to coordinate with them because they are not open often.

 

OK, thanks. I need to contact them to see what's available at the museum and if it's worth my while to go. I don't live too far away.

 

One of these times that I'm up in Maine I'd like to go to that museum and see their crossbar switch. And to go back to the Seattle museum - this time with a laptop and a recording cable: :)

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