Excursion back into the past

The capital’s Museum of Communications can provide you an opportunity to talk to your relatives and friends on the telephone that was made a century ago
The capital’s Museum of Communications can provide you an opportunity to talk to your relatives and friends on the telephone that was made a century ago.
Though, one can use this opportunity not so often. It is only for special occasions that the old telephones are taken off their museum stands. This was the case when Beltelecom was celebrating its 10th anniversary in the summer of 2005. Then a corner of the old-time communications was opened in the exhibition center BelEXPO.
“There were many people wishing to use this unusual kind of communication”, — says Liudmila Barkovskaya, Director of the museum. “Some visitors even asked us to tell them the date when this kind of event will be organized next time. Though, instead of “ladies”, as the telephone girls were once called, we had operators doing the task.
In fact, earlier there were no occasional people working at telephone switchboards.
A telephone “lady” at that time could usually speak at least three foreign languages. As a standard requirement the girls were also obliged to be perfectly healthy and tall. Communication devices at that time demanded great skills and a fast reaction. Most welcomed were those employees who were not married. They could hear all the telephone talks but had an obligation to keep them in secret”.
“Our exhibits are often used to shoot TV commercials, historical feature films”, — Ludmila Barkovskaya continues. “We are proud of our collection and it could be rightfully called comprehensive. So far we do not have only a Bell receiver but one can see it among our photo exhibits…
Now the museum has about a thousand rare telephone sets, radio receivers, TV sets of different generations, switchboards, Morse apparatus and other devices. Many of them are still working. We even have the first Soviet black and white video recorder. Our employees have traveled all over Belarus to compose our collection.
There are also more than three and a half thousand photos and documents stored in the museum”.
“Museums like ours help to learn more of our history, culture and the country’s traditions’’, — points out Liudmila Barkovskaya. “Even the old things themselves arise genuine interest and with foreign tourists as well. For example, French people admire the fact that we preserved the first letter-typing Baudot apparatus invented by their fellow countryman Emil Baudot. The Germans are keen on the traverse construction which includes a wooden post with lamps, wiring and other elements necessary to arrange communications in the countryside. And military people admire the radio receiver Р-250 М-2. It was used by the Belarusian government in 1970’s to get in touch with the Kremlin and cosmonauts. Schoolchildren and students are interested in typing machines and arithmometers. They are also included in our unique exposition, by the way.
More and more new stands are added to our exhibition. One of them is devoted to Ernest Petrovsky, an honorable communications man. Ernest Nikolayevich is 78 now. But he continues to work all the same: writes books and brochures…”
“We opened his work “110 years of Minsk telephone urban service since 1896. The ХIХth, ХХth, ХХIst centuries” published in 2006 as a box of expensive sweets,” — Liudmila Barkovskaya confessed. “Ernest Nikolayevich had worked on this book for almost a year. And, as a result, the book was really beautiful and instructive. And even the story of his life is not less interesting than the book he wrote. Our exhibition includes an oil lamp, a feathered pen and… a composition dated back into 1948 when Petrovsky was in the ninth form. And the thing you notice at once is the copperplate handwriting of the man which is hardly to be found at present…
An obligatory part of our excursion is a story of the priest Pavel Florensky. His contemporaries called him “a Russian Leonardo Da Vinchy”. He participated in electrification of Russia and contributed much to the development of communications. A separate state is devoted to the Russian inventor of radio Alexander Popov.

Alla Kvetkovskaya
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