• Developing local narratives for objects in national collections: Lessons learned from the “Number Please? Working with the Enfield Exchange” project.

      Geoghegan, Hilary; McIlvenna, Kathleen; van der Vaart, Merel; Institute of Historical Research (Wiley, 2017-06-19)
      Museums of science, technology, and engineering are developing new ways of interpreting and displaying their collections. Increasingly objects are being placed within narratives of everyday use; the human side of technology. The focus of this article is a section of one of the last UK manual telephone switchboards, which was acquired by the Science Museum, London, following its decommissioning in 1960. This artifact offers a unique insight into a communication technology that relied extensively on female telephonists, a distinct way of understanding gender roles in the twentieth century. The authors explore strategies for developing local narratives for objects from national collections and reflect on lessons learned from a cross-institutional collaboration. This article highlights: the value of local historians, community events and oral histories to developing local narratives; how these activities informed understandings of the telephone switchboard; work life in the communications industry; the relationship between women and technology; and practical strategies that can enhance collections and museum practice through collaboration.