Volunteers Needed

Our 2023 season has come to an end, but we are always looking for new volunteers.

Are you a history buff? Are you interested in telecommunications or electrical engineering? Do you love talking to people? You could welcome visitors to the musuem, work in our gift shop, give engaging tours, help maintain equipment or the buildings and grounds, and so much more. No experience needed. We’ll train you! 

Whether you can share your time and talents for the whole 2024 season or volunteer on occasional weekends, we are grateful! Email switchboard@nemot.org or fill out this volunteer form to let us know how you can help make The Telephone Museum and the visitor experience better!Powered by Volunteers

Museum Future Brighter with Your Help

Earlier this month, The Telephone Museum’s annual appeal from President Martin Harriss went out by mail. We share most of the text of the letter below (Full Letter PDF). 

Friends and Supporters of The Telephone Museum:

I hope that 2023 is bringing you good health and happiness. As I write this our 2023 season is in full swing. So far we’ve had a steady stream of visitors who have been delighted to learn about the history of telephone technology and hear stories of how it all came to be. If you have not yet been able to visit the museum this year, I hope you’ll make plans to visit before the museum closes at the end of September.

We’re excited to be starting the planning for a number of projects to help to ensure the long-term sustainability of the museum and its unique exhibits. One important project is to mitigate the inexorable flow of rainwater that makes its way down the Winkumpaugh Road and the museum driveway, threatening to infiltrate the main barn building. This project will ensure that future visitors to the museum are able to experience the fascinating history of the telephone and see firsthand how this vital communication system operated.

None of this work comes for free, of course, so this is the time of year for me to ask you to help us preserve and tell the story of this remarkable technology. Your donation will allow us to protect and maintain the museum and its exhibits and allow us to demonstrate to future generations how we got from Alexander Graham Bell’s first telephone to today’s world of cell phones and the almost instant communication they bring.

Please give as generously as you can to help with these new projects and to keep our switches and networks up and running! We are immensely grateful for your ongoing interest and support.

GIVE ONLINE or mail in the APPEAL CARD with your check.


Martin Harriss

President, The New England Museum of Telephony, Inc.

Join Us as a Subscriber!

In the early days of telephony, customers were called “subscribers.” We call our members “subscribers” to honor that history.

Subscribers are essential to the future of The Telephone Museum as they provide dependable ongoing support for our operations. 

Become a Telephone Museum subscriber today! You’ll receive free admission to the museum, notification of special events, and more. Join at the level that’s right for you.

For more information and to download a subscriber form, CLICK HERE.

Are you already a subscriber? THANK YOU! 

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Museums Make Call on No. 5 Crossbar, Mark Telecommunications Anniversary

Martin Harriss Makes a Call on the No. 5 Crossbar switching system

Martin Harriss of The Telephone Museum receives a call on the museum’s No. 5 Crossbar from Sarah Autumn of the Connections Museum in Seattle. Watch a video of the call, HERE.

The ringing of a telephone is a common sound at The Telephone Museum in Ellsworth, but that sound recently took on more significance.

On July 16, Sarah Autumn of the Connections Museum in Seattle called Martin Harriss of The Telephone Museum to mark 75 years since the No. 5 Crossbar, a telephone switching system that revolutionized telecommunications, was first placed into service in Media, Pennsylvania. 

The call itself was made between “the only two preserved No. 5 Crossbar systems in the world,” said Martin, president of the board and a volunteer at the museum. It was facilitated by a VOIP connection on the internet. 

“The call allowed us to celebrate the history and technological developments of the field of telephone switching,” he said. “It’s great to see them still working so well long after they were originally placed into service.”

The 5XB, designed by Bell Labs and built by Western Electric, was significant for a few reasons, Martin said.

“It was the first system where subscribers could dial their own long-distance calls. Previously, long-distance calls had to be completed with the assistance of an operator.”

“It was a very versatile system and was used for several purposes apart from basic telephone switching. The technical architecture of the system paved the way for later electronic and digital systems, including touch-tone calling.”

The No. 5 Crossbar system at the Connections Museum was installed on Mercer Island, Washington, in the 1950s, according to the museum’s website. It was moved to the museum after it was taken out of service in the 1980s.

The 5XB system now in Ellsworth originally went into service in Belfast, Maine, in 1964. “It served about 5,000 customers as the town’s telephone system until it was replaced by a modern digital central office,” Martin said.

Current museum treasurer Charlie Dunne and Charles Galley oversaw the acquisition of the system in the 1990s and its relocation to The Telephone Museum in Ellsworth.

“It took a number of years to piece the system back together and make it work,” Martin said. “Our first successful call took place on the morning of July 29, 2012. Since then, more work has been done to make more parts of the system work, such as making and receiving calls to and from our other switching systems.”

The challenging work of preserving technology like the 5XB is important, he said. “It’s part of the museum’s story about how we got from nothing to where we are today in the modern world of communication.”

To see the No. 5 Crossbar system in action, visit The Telephone Museum at 166 Winkumpaugh Road, Ellsworth. The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays through September; other days by appointment or chance. Admission costs $10 per adult, $5 per child. Schedule your tour in advance by calling (207) 667-9491 or emailing switchboard@nemot.org. Include your name, best contact method, and the number of people in your party.

To support the museum’s efforts to preserve telecommunications history, volunteer or give online HERE.

Enjoy Your Visit? Review Us!

We LOVE sharing our passion for the history of telephony and showing off our interactive, hands-on exhibits.

If you’ve enjoyed a visit to The Telephone Museum, let people know. Tell them what you liked best with a review on Trip Advisor, Yelp, or Facebook. These digital high fives mean a lot and help other people find us.

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Review The Telephone Museum

Thank You, Volunteers

Thank you to ALL who came from far and wide to help on our July 15 Volunteer Day!

Volunteers jacked up storage containers, gave tours, staffed the gift shop, worked on equipment, created our new Instagram account and more!

We’re ALWAYS looking for new volunteer tour guides, whether once a week or once a season. Share your time and talents with us and our visitors! Industry experience helpful but not necessary. We’ll train you! To sign up, call 207-667-9491, email switchboard@nemot.org, or sign up online:

Collage of volunteers


Opening for the 2023 Season

On the weekend of May 20, museum volunteers and board members powered up the switching equipment, cleaned floors and displays, and began organizing items in storage. We will be open for regular hours (10-4) starting the first Saturday in July through end of September. The History of the Independent Phone Companies in Maine continues to be on display. Please stop by if you missed it last year.

Opening for the 2022 Season

With cleanup and power-up of the switching equipment completed, we will be open for normal hours every Saturday from July until end of September 10am to 4pm. With limited staff and to accommodate social distancing, we are asking visitors to schedule a tour by calling or emailing our museum. We have a great exhibit on the History of Independent Phone Companies in Maine in our Visitors Center that we’d love to have you tour. We hope to see you this season.

Operators Recall Pre-Smartphone Era

LISTEN TO and READ Susan Sharon’s report about a reunion of telephone switchboard operators in Auburn on the Maine Public website.

Women Operating a Telephone Switchboard

This photo of women operating a telephone switchboard is on display at The Telephone Museum

Reopening in 2021

After what seemed like many seasons gone by, we’re happy to announce that the museum will be opening in 2021 after being closed last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

We will have new procedures in place this year to keep our volunteers and visitors safe. Namely we will be open by appointment only this year starting in July through end of September. We are asking all visitors to please wear a mask when visiting the museum.