Hello, Montréal! Bell's Historical Collections
From February 17, 2017 extended to January 6, 2019
Pointe-à-Callière is proud to present an exhibition on the history of telephony, from its beginnings in 1874 to the present, based on Bell's rich historical collections. Hello, Montréal! features some 250 items and archival photographs, documents and films.
Produced by Pointe-à-Callière, the Montréal Archaeology and History Complex, in partnership with Bell, the exhibition is sure to interest all our visitors as it examines not only the evolution of telephony, but also the social impact of the telephone and its different associated technologies.
And what better place to host this exhibition than Montréal, a city at the heart of urban communications in North America, and that will also be celebrating its 375th anniversary in 2017!
The tone is set as soon as visitors step into the room and are greeted by a text message. Throughout, the focus is on both the entertaining side of communications and the historical value of the items from the Bell collection. In modern, colourful and vibrant surroundings, visitors are encouraged to think about their own use of the telephone and its central role in their lives, as they learn about the technological advances in telephony over the past more than one hundred years, and how they have changed the way we communicate.
At one of the six interactive stations, visitors of all ages can test their mettle as an early 20th century telephone operator. There are audiovisual displays, background projections, songs about telephones from different periods, oversize models and installations, all making for a colourful, fun experience.
From Mr. Morse to Mr. Bell
The story begins with the invention of the telegraph by Samuel Morse. But of course it would be impossible to talk about the telephone without mentioning Alexander Graham Bell. In 1876, Bell patented his telephone, which finally made it possible to transmit the human voice. It was a tremendous milestone in the history of technology! Now people could communicate over long distances without the help of a telegraph operator.
The telephone’s arrival in Montréal, back in the days of wooden sidewalks, horse-drawn trams and gaslights, was a real revolution in the world of communications. Between 1879 and 1925, telephones went from being a simple curiosity to everyday objects. In 1902, the Windsor was the first hotel in Montréal to have telephones in guests’ rooms. Twenty years later, in 1922, about 6% of Montréal households owned one.
The soaring number of telephones required veritable armies of operators, to complete all the calls placed by all these users. And did you know that in addition to connecting calls, operators answered all kinds of questions? For instance, in 1923, telephone operators in Quebec and Ontario gave 140,000 callers a day the correct time!
The men and women who made it all possible
The exhibition also salutes the generations of men and women behind the development of telephony. They had to erect poles, bury cables, design and manage the technology to run the network, and install telephones in users’ homes and offices.
The wealth of items from the Bell collection will definitely bring back plenty of memories for visitors of all ages. Who remembers the first rotary dial telephones, and the fact that users had to be trained to use them? Or the advent of mobile phones in people’s cars, in the 1940s? And then there was that amazing innovation, the automatic answering machine! The exhibition highlights the key role telephones have played in changing how we communicate with one another.
After more than 140 years of advances in telephony, there’s still no end in sight. Hello, Montréal! isn’t just about the past. It also devotes plenty of attention to the modern day, from Expo 67 and its famous Telephone Pavilion, to the various kinds of telephones over the years, and ends with a look at today’s phones and a peek into the future. For with the explosion of new technologies, who knows what tomorrow will bring?