Telecommunications museum has new home

Morris News Service
Ciera Debrick, of Hinesville, tries a turn-of-the-century hand-cranked telephone at the museum in Hinesville. The museum was formerly located in Washington, D.C., before losing its office space.

HINESVILLE, Ga. - When the Independent Telecommunication Pioneer Association needed a new home, the Glenn E. and Trudie Bryant Foundation opened its doors.


Not only did the foundation provide the pioneer association with a new place to call home but it also wound up serving as the site for a small telecommunications museum in Hinesville.

Morrie Sachsenmaier, the national ITPA historical chairman, said in a telephone interview from his home in Snohomish, Wash., that the pioneer association used to be housed in the United States Telephone Association building in Washington.

"In early 2000, the USTA scaled back its operation because of the telephone industry deregulation, and the ITPA lost its office space," Mr. Sachsenmaier said. "We had to find a new location for the national headquarters, and the Glenn E. and Trudie Bryant Foundation seemed like the perfect partner to team up with."

ITPA moved to Hinesville and rented office space until the Bryants' home was ready to accept the association and the hundreds of artifacts that outline the history of the telephone industry.

Visitors to the museum, which is open Monday through Friday, are presented with a brief history of how the telephone industry evolved.

The walls of the room that houses the museum pieces are lined with shelves displaying various models of telephones and how their design and technology changed through the years.

The exhibit includes solid wood telephones that had to be cranked to place a call through a telephone operator.

A switchboard also is on display, with the connection numbers still attached to the slots where operators once used electrical cords to place calls within a community.

The prize possession the museum has on display is a transceiver used by Alexander Graham Bell, a Scottish immigrant credited with inventing the telephone, for which he was awarded a U.S. patent in 1876.

Mr. Sachsenmaier explained how Bell would take the transceiver - a wood device shaped like the handset used with candlestick phones - along with him during business trips.

"Through arrangements with telegraph wire offices, Bell would be able to make phone calls," Mr. Sachsenmaier said.

He said the transceiver is extremely rare.

Mr. Bryant's former home also is destined to become the repository for memorabilia of the former state senator and founder of Coastal Utilities, now known as Coastal Communications, and his wife, Trudie, said Ed Haymans, the president of the Glenn E. and Trudie Bryant Foundation.

"We hope to start setting a museum in the Bryants' honor very shortly," Mr. Haymans said. "We'll have photos and other artifacts detailing the Bryants' contribution to the community.

"We're very excited to have the museum come to Hinesville. Once we get it into full operation, and once the Bryants' memorabilia is in place, it will be a great asset to the community as well as out-of-town visitors."

The museum is on 150 acres that eventually will have nature trails put in for the public to use.