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About the collection at Milton Keynes Museum

Inside the telephone museum at Milton Keynes Museum

Milton Keynes Museum is home to the history of Britain's newest city. The huge and forever changing displays, all housed in a beautiful Victorian farmstead, have something for all the family.

The museum follows the history of the Milton Keynes area, including North Buckinghamshire and South Northamptonshire, from 1800 to the present day. Our collections include social, domestic, industrial and agricultural items with a connection to the area.

The Museum's Connected Earth collection include a wide variety of historic telephones and switchboards. Many of these are in working order and explain the development of engineering and switching technologies.

The museum also has some historic Post Office and British Telecom vehicles - the largest of which is the Road Phone, a giant working telephone used as a promotional tool.

News from Milton Keynes Museum.

3D objects from Milton Keynes Museum

Place the mouse over the Flash image. Left-click and drag either left or right to rotate the animation.
   
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This equipment from an automatic telephone exchange allowed callers to dial telephone numbers directly. This allowed them to make a call without having to go through the operator.

   
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This equipment from an automatic telephone exchange allowed callers to dial telephone numbers directly. This allowed them to make a call without having to go through the operator.

   
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This equipment from an automatic telephone exchange allowed callers to dial telephone numbers directly. This allowed them to make a call without having to go through the operator.

   
Fibre Optic Cable

Fibre optic cables are very different from copper ones. Developed from the 1960s, they carry pulses of light, not electrical signals, and have no need for a second cable for a 'return path'.

They can transport much greater amounts of information, and also, on a mile-for-mile basis, they are much less 'noisy' than copper and as a result lose much less information.

Fibre optic cables are increasingly replacing copper cables as the backbone of today's telecommunications network and have played a huge part in making the internet available around the world.

   
Candlestick telephone No 2

The candlestick phone was in common use from around 1900 until well into the 1950s. Unlike earlier phones it was powered from the exchange which eliminated the need for "local" batteries which often leaked.

The early No 2 model was used on manual exchanges from 1914 onwards. Lifting the handset would connect the caller to the operator at the exchange, who would connect them to the required number.

   
Candlestick telephone 150

This Post Office standard telephone dates from 1924 and resembles the earlier versions used on manual exchanges. Using the dial, the caller could make trunk or long distance calls directly, but long - distance trunk calls still had to be connected through the operator for many years

   
Cable

An early example of an underground long distance (trunk) telephone cable. The earliest telephone cables were carried overhead, and before long the skies in urban areas were filled with wires as a vast network of aerial cables radiated from exchanges. These were carried by huge distribution poles which often collapsed under the weight of the heavy copper cable. The first significant long distance underground cable was laid between London and Birmingham in 1898.

   
Cable

With the developments in technology and the introduction of plastics, cables became thinner and lighter. They were able to carry many more telephone circuits than the early cables.

Visitor information

Milton Keynes Museum location map

The museum is housed in a beautiful Victorian farmstead and the large and constantly changing selection of displays has something for all the family.

Telephone: +44 (0) 1908 316222
Email: info@mkmuseum.org.uk
Website: http://www.mkmuseum.org.uk/

Postal Address:
Milton Keynes Museum
McConnell Drive
Wolverton
Milton Keynes  MK12 5EL
England

Directions

By road:
From the M1 motorway (southbound) leave at Junction 15 and follow A508 to Old Stratford. Take the A5 dual carriage way into Milton Keynes, but leave at the first junction. Then follow the Museum's Brown Cart Signs to find the Car Park.

From the M1 motorway (northbound) leave at Junction 14 and follow signs for central Milton Keynes and then Northern Milton Keynes (occasionally signed as Wolverton or Stony Stratford). When on Milton Keynes Grid Road H3/Monks Way, proceed westwards to Stacey Bushes and then follow the Museum's Brown Cart Signs.

From the West of England approach Milton Keynes on the A422. At Old Stratford take the A5 dual carriageway into Milton Keynes, but leave at the first junction. Then follow the Museum's Brown Cart Signs.

From the East of England approach Milton Keynes on the A421 or A422. On A422 (known in Milton Keynes as H3/Monks Way) follow the road through Milton Keynes until you see the Museum's Brown Cart Signs. On A421, follow road into Milton Keynes until reaching grid road V8/Marlborough Street. Head north (ie turn right) until reaching A422 (also known as grid road H3/Monks Way). Follow this road towards north Milton Keynes, then follow the Museum's Brown Cart Signs.


By train:
Virgin West Coast operates high speed intercity trains between Milton Keynes Central, London Euston, Birmingham New Street and other main line stations to Glasgow and the North West of England. The Museum is a short bus or taxi ride from Milton Keynes Central station.

Silverlink County operates a local service between London Euston and Birmingham New Street with regular stops at Wolverton. These services can be used to connect from Milton Keynes Central which is a few minutes away. The Museum is a short walk or taxi ride from Wolverton Station.

By bus:
A number of local bus routes in and around Milton Keynes offer connections between the Museum, the major residential areas, Central Milton Keynes and the railway stations.

fun and games

Can you beat our games? Explode equipment to see what's inside, hear the changing sounds of telecommunications, see how telecommunications designs have changed over time or send an e-postacard.

what's on

"A treasure trove of UK history", a new BT Archives feature launched on bt.com. Find out more...

BT Archives goes social media with twitter and facebook.

audio history

Take a trip down memory lane with extracts of the interviews which have been recorded as part of the Connected Earth oral history programme.

featured story

100 years of automatic switching!
In 1912 the GPO installed Britain's first automatic telephone exchange in Epsom.

Discover the early days of the telephone...