February 2017

Talking About the Evolution of Communications through Telephony!

For immediate release

Montréal, February 16, 2017 – Pointe-à-Callière, the Montréal Archaeology and History Complex, in collaboration with Bell, is proud to present Hello, Montréal! Bell's Historical Collections, a lighthearted and entertaining exhibition that looks at the evolution of communications through the advances in telephony and the role telephony plays in our lives.

The exhibition follows the development of this amazing device from its invention by Alexander Graham Bell in 1874 up to the digital communications revolution of today.

Pointe-à-Callière drew on Bell’s rich private collections to create a fun-filled historical, technological and sociological portrait of telephony and its influence on how people – including Montréalers, of course – talk with each other and the whole world. The exhibition features over 250 items, photos, documents, musical excerpts and archival films to tell the fascinating story of this invention.

“For Montréal's 375th anniversary, we decided to unveil an exhibition looking at the development of telephony over more than 140 years, from a Montréal viewpoint. Technological innovations have shaped the way we communicate and contributed to our city’s growth. Pointe-à-Callière is proud to retrace the development of telephony in such striking fashion, and we thank Bell most sincerely for making it possible with access to its invaluable private collection,” says Francine Lelièvre, Executive Director of Pointe-à-Callière.

“Bell is delighted to partner with Pointe-à-Callière to celebrate Montréal 375 by showing how a company founded in this city in 1880 helped shape the landscape of modern communications all around the world,” said Martine Turcotte, Bell’s Vice Chair, Québec. “Charting the course of communications in Montréal from the first telegraph devices to the incredibly powerful mobile and broadband fibre networks of today, Pointe-à-Callière has created a compelling and highly entertaining examination of the heritage of our city and our company, and the continued opportunities for innovation and growth ahead.”

140 years of progress
The exhibition takes visitors on a journey lasting more than 140 years, tracing the evolution of telephony. It begins with the birth of Alexander Graham Bell’s brainchild and follows technological advances leading up a new way of interacting: the wired network. This was followed by a giant step, with the introduction of fibre optics. Visitors will also learn about the people who contributed to the development of telephony, particularly in Montréal.

The exhibition themes will examine the development of communications networks, mobile telephony and its influence on today’s lifestyles, and the future of communications. Visitors will have fun seeing all this history and they will also be encouraged to think about their own use of the telephone and its central role in their lives as they learn about how technological advances in telephony over the decades have changed the way we communicate.

Intriguing objects
The first artifact in this fabulous journey through time is the “ancestor” of the telephone: the telegraph. A variety of magnificent examples of technological innovation is presented, including the magneto switchboard used in a Montréal telephone exchange around 1895, as well as a battery switchboard from the early 1900s. Then came the rotary dial telephone and the pushbutton version. Does that sound familiar? And then there were all the different models. Who remembers the famous “Princess” phone designed for young women and launched in 1960? How about the “Vista 350” model, introduced in 1996, that displayed the caller’s name?

Exhibition highlights also include the first telephone switchboard used by the city of Montréal’s fire department, from 1884 to 1908;aA magneto telephone used at the Montreal Hunt Club, around 1880, and the first outdoor telephone booth, which appeared in 1944; the huge battery switchboard produced by the Northern Electric and Manufacturing Company in Montréal in the early 1900s, of striking size and complexity; and the Motorola DynaTAC series telephone, which appeared around 1985. The heavy and rather impractical first generation portable cell phone is a far cry from the modern, light and ultra-powerful devices we know today .

Fun things to do, too
While all our visitors are sure to learn lots from the exhibition, there’s also a space for youngsters to have fun. For instance, they can find how they would measure up as a switchboard operator from the 1920s, connecting as many people as possible. They can check whether they’ve got what it takes to be a splicer, putting together the many wires to create a telephone connection. Or they can see how it feels to make a call on a rotary dial phone! Older visitors can admire the dozens of telephone models over the years and remember using them 20, 30, or 50 or more years ago.

Telephones in popular culture
The exhibition will also feature excerpts from soap operas and advertisements in which telephones play a key role, presented (of course!) in telephone booths. In a central space visitors will encounter an oversized telephone dial where they can listen to audio clips with telephone messages and musical excerpts relating to telephones. They include the amusing Le Téléfon by Nino Ferrer, performed by Patrick Zabé. Visitors can take selfies and text friends – with their cell phones, naturally – at a telephone switchboard.

A timeless machine
By the end of the exhibition, visitors will have had fun learning how telephony has skilfully evolved to make telephones more than a simple device that simplifies users’ daily lives. In its many forms the telephone has become a wonderful timeless machine that now determines the whole pace of our daily lives and has revolutionized the world of communications. As they explore the different innovative steps that have made this means of communication such a success, they’ll see how developments in telephony have had significant impacts on our lives at work, at home and in society.

Hello, Montréal! Bell's Historical Collections was produced by Pointe-à-Callière in partnership with Bell, drawing on Canada’s largest collection of archives and heritage material in the telecommunications industry. The Museum also wishes to thank exhibition sponsors Hôtel InterContinental Montréal and La Presse. To mark the Museum’s 25th anniversary, Pointe-à-Callière will be offering free admission to the exhibition from May 19 to June 20.

About Pointe-à-Callière
Montréal’s largest history museum, Pointe-à-Callière rises above the very site where the city was founded. It comprises a series of historic and archaeological sites of national significance that showcase major periods in the history of Montréal from 1350 to the present. The only large-scale archaeology museum in Quebec and in all of Canada, it opened in 1992 to mark Montréal’s 350th anniversary. The Museum’s mission is to bring visitors to know and appreciate the history of Quebec’s metropolis and to forge bonds with regional, national and international networks in the areas of archaeology, history and urbanism. It is currently working on a planned expansion to develop about ten heritage and historic sites to form Pointe-à-Callière, the Montréal Archaeology and History Complex, a world-class cultural and tourist attraction.

Pointe-à-Callière is subsidized by the City of Montréal.


Marilyne Levesque
Director of communications and marketing
[email protected]
T. 514 872-9124 / C. 514 884-6351

Did you know…

It was Thomas Edison who popularized the use of “Hello” as a greeting. Inventor Alexander Graham Bell in fact preferred “Hoy! Hoy!”.

Montréal’s first telephone directory was published in 1880 and contained 244 listings.

In 1902, the Windsor was the first hotel in Montréal to have telephones in guests’ rooms. But some guests complained about all the ringing!

In 1922, Montrealers made about 925,000 calls a day. It took nearly 2,000 operators to meet the demand.

In 1923, telephone operators in Quebec and Ontario gave 140,000 callers a day the correct time!

In 1931, toll free long-distance calling was introduced for telephone orders. In Montréal, Dupuis Frères, Ogilvy and Simpson’s were the first to offer it for their customers.

In the 1950s, cramming as many people as possible into a telephone booth was a popular pastime. In 1959, 25 individuals in South Africa managed to put at least one part of their body in a booth at the same time.

Your mobile phone has more processing power than the computers used to send Apollo 11 to the moon in 1969.

In 1998, the growing number of devices (mobile phones, pagers, fax machines) led to the adoption of the new 450 area code for the suburbs around Montréal.

The first telephone numbers beginning with the 438 code were introduced in 2004. Because the 438 code covers the same territory as the 514 code, subscribers must now dial ten digits to make a local call in Montréal.

The first text message was two words: “Merry Christmas!” It was sent from a computer on December 3, 1992, by Neil Papworth, a young British engineer, to one of his colleagues.