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About the collection at the National Museum of Scotland

Communicate! at the National Museum of Scotland

The collections of the National Museum of Scotland cover life, the universe and everything in it. From science and art to nature and outer space. What influence has the rest of the world had on Scotland and Scotland on it? How has the face of the nation changed over the centuries? Answers to all the big questions (and some tricky littles one) can be found at the National Museum of Scotland.

Communicate! is an exciting gallery within the National Museum of Scotland - a magnificent Victorian building in Edinburgh. The gallery combines stunning displays with interactive exhibits. It tells the story of human communication - from the drums of Papua New Guinea to Scottish pioneer Alexander Graham Bell - inventor of the telephone - right up to mobile technology and beyond.

Here you can:
- See how fast you can text
- Find out what your name looks like in Morse Code
- Discover if you are a techno-phobe or a techno-fan with the future Communications Quiz.

Additionally, in Autumn 2002, Connected Earth funded a new permanent curatorial post to interpret and maintain contact with new developments, and provide a link between all the Connected Earth partners and sites.

News from the National Museum of Scotland.

3D objects from National Museum of Scotland

Place the mouse over the Flash image. Left-click and drag either left or right to rotate the animation.
Wheatstones automatic telegraph perforator, patented in 1858

The perforator was used to punch holes in paper tape to represent letters. The tape was then passed through an automatic telegraph sender. This system operated at up to 200 words a minute. A telegraph operator tapping a Morse message by hand could manage between 25 and 35 words a minute.

Wall Telephone made by Cox Walkers, Darlington and Edinburgh, c. 1885

This wall telephone has an earpiece and mouthpiece made by French telephone pioneer Clment Ader.

Telephone made by James Pollock, Glasgow, c. 1900

This wall telephone was made for the Glasgow Municipal Telephone system which operated from 1900 to 1906. The user would turn the handle on the side to ring the operator at the exchange.

Telecom Bronze portable phone with battery pack, mid 1980s

This was thought of as a lightweight portable phone when it was introduced. It weighs 3 kilos and would give about 30 minutes of talk time.

Model of a shutter telegraph invented by Lord George Murray in 1796

The Admiralty ran a line of telegraph stations from London to Portsmouth in 1808. It took 15 minutes to send a message to Portsmouth and back (115 kilometres). One operator watched the next station through a telescope, whilst another worked the shutters with ropes to spell out messages.

Ericofon 700. Ericsson, Sweden, 1976

This phone design first appeared in the mid 1950s, with a dial in the base. The Ericofon was one of the first versions of keypad phones when designed in 1967. This model came in brown, green or white and was made until the early 1980s.

Ebony mobile phone with charger and battery, 1990
Dawn Telephone, BT Northern Telecom (UK) Ltd, 1981

The Dawn was one of the Special Range of telephones introduced in the late 1970s. All telephones were still rented from the Post Office at this time. Special Range phones cost more to rent but gave customers a greater choice.

Carrier pigeon and message container, c. 1915

Carrier pigeons were used during World War 1 (1914-1918) and World War 2 (1939-1945) to send messages back from the front lines. The message container attached to the pigeon�s leg is made of aluminium, a very light metal.

Bells liquid transmitter, 1876

A replica of one of Bells experimental transmitters, which he used to send his first message Mr Watson - Come here I want to see you. Bell submitted a patent for his telephone on 14 February 1876.

Bells gallows telephone, 1875

Bell made an instrument like this while he was experimenting with magnets and sounds in the summer of 1875. The results convinced him that it was possible to transmit speech.

Visitor information

National Museum of Scotland location map

Telephone: +44 (0) 131 225 7534

Postal Address:
National Museum of Scotland
Chambers Street


The National Museum of Scotland is a short walk from the city's main railway station - Waverley -and is also on a number of bus routes. There is a large public car park to the rear of the building.

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

The UK's first permanent gallery dedicated to the history of information and communication technologies opens in the new Information Age gallery at London’s Science Museum.

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...