13 August 2015

Telecom Museum

  • IPENZ Engineering to 1990 plaque at the Telecom Museum. IPENZ.

Established in 1939, the Telecom Museum has grown into a unique assemblage of New Zealand telecommunications literature and artefacts dating back to the 1860s. It maintains collections relating to the development of telegraph, telephone and radio telecommunications in New Zealand and is housed at Ferrymead Heritage Park in Christchurch.

The Telegraph collections contain some hardware from the first commercial telegraph system (Christchurch–Lyttelton, 1862) and a good selection of all types of equipment to the present. No attempt is made to collect a system of each kind but rather sufficient items to show the chronological development and changes of technology.

The Telephone collections contain the first telephones made in New Zealand by William Furby in 1877, and also four examples of the first commercial telephones used in New Zealand – the 1881 model “Bell-Blakes”. A representative collection of telephones to the present is maintained together with many more obscure “specials”. Collections of exchange equipment, the manual and the various forms of automatic, are also maintained.

Radio equipment forms a large part of the collections. Spark wireless is well represented as are more recent local products by manufacturers such as Collier and Beale. The collection contains six RCA AR88-D receivers bearing the company serial numbers 1 to 6. What is reputedly the oldest valve-operated radio receiver in New Zealand, a De Forrest 1B, approximately 1916, is also in this collection.

The collections, containing some 2,000 artefacts, are extensive and diverse. All local manufacturers are represented. Machine printing systems are well covered as are telephone dials and relays. The relay collection, designed to show the great diversity of types and styles, would rate among the best. The submarine cable collection, with its associated paraphernalia, is possibly a world best.

This museum, when compared with others of its type, is considered to be the fourth best in the world; after Sweden, Germany and Holland.

The Archive consists of a technical library, an extensive photograph collection and much historical documentation dating back to 1860. The technical library includes books probably unique to the Southern Hemisphere.

Heritage recognition

IPENZ “Engineering to 1990” project

This item of New Zealand’s engineering heritage was recognised as part of the IPENZ “Engineering to 1990” project, which the Institution organised to help celebrate the country’s sesquicentenary in 1990. A plaque was unveiled to mark the significance of this museum as part of the development of the nation.

More information


The Telecom Museum is at the Ferrymead Heritage Park in Christchurch.