Victorian Telecommunications Museum visit

by Nicole A
Publish date
13 December 2010
Comments (9)

This guest post comes from Nicole Alley, who currently works in the Webteam. She is a geek at heart who loves taking photos.

Here in the ICT (Information Communications & Technology) Department, we work with plenty of digital stuff – telephones, computers, software, servers, video cameras, touch name it. So it was a refreshing change of pace when a group of us visited the Victorian Telecommunications Museum last month to revisit some of the old ways of communicating.

The museum is housed in the Telstra Hawthorn telephone exchange near Glenferrie Station and is managed by Stef Nowak and a group of volunteers who are passionate about preserving Australia's telecommunications heritage. The items come from both Telstra and the volunteer affiliate that manage the collection.

Ken Hoskins gave us a tour through the museum, where we learned about the history and technology of cables, insulators, phones, switchboards, talking clocks, exchanges and more.

Ken Hoskins Ken Hoskins guided us through the history of communication in Australia, from the first telephone to more recent technologies like this VOIP (voice over IP) phone.
Image: Nicole Alley
Source: Museum Victoria

There were, of course, telephones galore, showing the evolution of technology: wooden wall phones powered by two enormous batteries, where you had to turn the handle and speak to an operator; black rotary dialers that appear to be coming back in fashion; kids' phones in the shape of cartoon characters; public phones and phone booths; and the ubiquitous mobile phone (remember when they were the size and weight of a brick!?).

Old telephones There's a certain charm to these old telephones.
Image: Nicole Alley
Source: Museum Victoria

A highlight was a morse code demonstration from Brian, John and Bob, members of the Victorian Morsecodian Fraternity who meet at the museum every week. They explained how morse code worked and reminisced about the days when they would hop on the red Post Master General bike and deliver the typed messages to their recipients, including some lottery winners. You can see John in action in the video below, turning our names into dits and dahs.

We also met Bob Muir, who showed us the Violano Virtuoso that he is restoring for Museum Victoria. It's a cross between a violin and a piano, and is expected to go on display at Scienceworks next year. Can't wait to hear it!

Violano Bob Muir with the beautiful Violano Virtuoso.
Image: Nicole Alley
Source: Museum Victoria

Phone boxes The evolution of the public phone box. I'm sure Superman preferred the wooden red ones to the more modern glass version!
Image: Nicole Alley
Source: Museum Victoria

Rotary diallers Who knew there were so many different styles of rotary diallers?
Image: Nicole Alley
Source: Museum Victoria

Cable cross-section and phone cover Left: This cross-section of a telephone cable housing hundreds of smaller cables looks a bit like liquorice! Right: These dolls were used to hide the "ugliness" of the telephone in the home.
Image: Nicole Alley
Source: Museum Victoria

Exchange Eight exchanges built from the 1920s through to the late 90s, including the first ever designed and built electronic exchange in Australia by the old Telstra Research Laboratories.
Image: Nicole Alley
Source: Museum Victoria

It's fascinating to see the technology changing so rapidly. I wonder what our phones will look like and what we'll be able to do on them in another five years?


Victorian Telecommunications Museum

Collections Online: Information & Communication Collection

Comments (9)

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Peter Wilson 13 December, 2010 13:17
Wow, looks fantastic... I never knew there was a Morscodian Fraternity out there! Great post.
Jenni Meaney 14 December, 2010 10:46
Fascinating to see how fast both technology + design change. Great pictures - thanks Nicole.
Cathy Day 19 September, 2011 21:57
Thank you for your description - very helpful for me to see what else is out there for Telecommunication Museums.
electronman32k 10 July, 2013 11:58
Be sure to ring them up to make a booking if you want to visit as the place is locked down tight and you cant just wander in as you please like you can with the melborne museum
Barrie 10 May, 2014 16:44
Please advise Postal street address of Museum (How near and in what direction?)
Discovery Centre 11 May, 2014 12:03
Hi Barrie, the Museum is located in the Hawthorn Telephone Exchange on Burwood Road in Hawthorn. Make sure you give them a call to arrange a visit if you are interested as visit is by appointment only.
Bob Manning 13 June, 2014 20:16
well done but I would like to know of any definete days /hours when you are open. August onwards so that I can feel the atmosphere. Bob X strowger + Tech from Narrandera
Graeme 3 August, 2016 22:15
Great to find that the Museum exists. In my career with PMG/Telecom/Telstra I worked on SE50, 2000, XBar, Broadband, business systems and the first mobiles. Love to drop by one day and have a look. Are you ever open on a Tuesday?
Discovery Centre 4 August, 2016 14:36

Hi Graeme,

Here is the address,contact details and opening times for the Victorian Telecommunications Museum;

Hawthorn Telephone Exchange
375 Burwood Road
Hawthorn VIC 3122
T: 03 9819 1199
M: 0417 549 691
Open Wednesday (by appointment)
Other days can be arranged based on volunteer availability

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