A passerby might not pay much notice to the unassuming brick building at the corner of Ashland Street and 18th Street, but it holds one of the most extensive collections of telephone and communications equipment in the world, dating from 1876 to the present day.
Since 1966, the local branch of the Telephone Pioneers of America, a group of former telephone company employees, have been amassing these artifacts and sharing them with the public at the Doc Porter Museum of Telephone History.
Kids who accompany their parents and grandparents on trips to the museum are unfamiliar with even the rotary phones on display.
But now it's in a bind: The AT&T building — including the 7,500-square-foot space that the museum has occupied, rent free, since 1996 — has been put up for sale, and the museum must find a replacement home before Dec. 1.
"We're trying to preserve for history, and for children growing up, a way of life," Olita Porter, the nominal curator of the Doc Porter Museum, tells CultureMap.
She says that the kids who accompany their parents and grandparents on trips to the museum are unfamiliar with even the rotary phones on display.
Those make up just a small portion of the full collection, estimated to be worth more than $1 million — although it's arguably priceless. Porter approximates that the museum needs around 5,000 square feet of display space, plus an extremely modest rent, as the museum currently runs only on visitor donations.
In the meantime, the museum will continue to be open from 9 a.m. until noon on Tuesdays.