The New Hampshire telephone museum in Warner displays the tangible history of telecommunications through its collection of historic telephones. The museum is home to the private collection of the Bartlett and Violette families and Garry Mitchell, all of whom have a history of work in the telephone industry. Over 1,000 artifacts make up the permanent collection. Items, displayed in chronological order, include telephones spanning more than a 100-year history, from Bell’s 1876 liquid telephone to the beginnings of cordless phones and wireless technology, to intercom phones and novelty items such as beer can phones, Garfield and Elvis phones.
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Additional items include phone booths, tools, accessories, and uniforms of telephone company workers. Informational displays tell the history of the telephone patent, Morse code, and the dial telephone. A display on the evolution of switching includes several antique switchboards as well as one functional one. Demonstrations of the working switchboard are included on each tour. Guided tours are recommended as museum staff is well informed and able to answer any and all questions visitors may have.
History: The New Hampshire Telephone Museum was founded in 2001 by Werner local Alderic “Dick” Violette. Dick began work for a New Hampshire are telephone company in 1949 running lines, splicing wires and digging holes. By the end of his 50-year career he was the President & CEO of Merrimack County Telephone. He remained Chairman of the Board of Directors through 2002 when the company sold to TDS Telecom. Throughout his career, Dick collected memorabilia and artifacts related to the telephone, and always imagined his collection would someday be seen by the public in a museum. His New Hampshire Telephone Museum opened in 2005 with Dick’s collection as the centerpiece. Since 2005, over 64 artifacts have been added from the collection of Garry Mitchell, as well as donations of individual items. Over 500 visitors attended the museum opening weekend, and close to 10,000 have seen the displays today.
Ongoing Programs and Education: Visits to the Telephone Museum begin with a ten-minute video on the museum and the history of the telephone, followed by a one-hour guided tour. Those who wish to tour the museum on their own may download a self-guided audio tour to their cell phones. Group rates are available for groups of ten or more.
Friday nights are event nights at the museum. Past events have included movie nights, with telephone-themed features such as Bells are Ringing and Pillow Talk. Friday night talks range from the History of 9-1-1 to an author talk about Theodore Roosevelt, to a talk on Norman Rockwell’s use of the telephone in his paintings. Appraisal Nights let guests bring in not only telephones, but any antique items they’d like appraised. Brews for Bell is the museum’s largest annual fundraiser. The November event offers live music, locally brewed beer, and raffle prizes.
Past and Future Exhibits: Many of the museum’s past exhibits can now be browsed online. These include The History of the Telephone from A to Z. The exhibit shares fun facts about the invention that forever changed human communication. How Smart is Too Smart examines the computer age and the potential dangers posed by Artificial Intelligence. A section of the exhibit examines obsolete communications technology such as the micro cassette, the floppy disk and the Bernoulli disk.
Over There Over Here: Communication During WWI, was a 2017 exhibit designed to commemorate the 100th anniversary of World War I. The exhibit highlighted the role of pigeons, balloons and field telephones as well as the work of the Hello Girls, France’s famous switchboard operators. Oracles & Dragons & Apples: Oh My! was displayed at the museum in 2015. The exhibit taught visitors about the computer’s influence on communications technology. Really. Cool. Telephone. Stuff. was an exhibit that examined the telephone’s role in pop culture, film and television.
What’s Nearby: The Warner Firefighter’s Museum is located on the bottom floor of the New Hampshire Telephone Museum. The Warner Fire Department continuously operated since 1830. Originally a volunteer department, it is now a “call” department, allowing firefighters to be paid for calls. The museum is home to vintage firefighting equipment such as a Hunneman Handpumper from 1824 and a Chevrolet Fire Engine from 1927. Additional museums in the quaint town of Warner include the Little Nature Museum, the Mt. Kearsarge Indian Museum and the Warner Historical Society’s Upton Chandler House Museum.