Last week, the United States lost one of its quirkiest historical museums to a wildfire in northern California. The JKL Telephony Museum, also called the American Museum of Telephony, dedicated itself to the singular purpose of safeguarding and preserving the history of the telephone. Its namesake and owner John K La Rue — whose initials appear above the number 5 on most telephone dials — had thousands of artifacts on display, from old-fashioned rotaries and switchboards to antique catalogues and brochures.
Nothing was left of them after the Butte Fire swept near the town of San Andreas in Calaveras County on September 10. “We were told by firefighters that the museum burned to the ground,” read a blog post on the museum’s website. The destructive blaze has consumed some 72,000 acres, 233 homes, and most tragically three lives. It’s still only 45% contained.
But the fire might not mark the end for JKL. A enthusiast’s love for antique telephones, once kindled, can never really be quenched. The museum has already announced its determination to rebuild. “We believe it can once again be the very best resource and repository of antique telephone equipment, advertising, library material, real working telephone switching systems, and all else telephone,” the museum wrote. It’s now seeking donations of “quality items” to replace those lost.
It will still take years to amass the impression collection of objects the museum so recently held. According to its website, its library holdings were “unequaled by any US museum dedicated to telephony and most likely in the world.”
Three Looted Antiquities at the Met Repatriated to Turkey
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The Complicated Legacy of Camilo Egas
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Haggerty Museum of Art Presents Tomás Saraceno in Dialogue With Dr. Somesh Roy
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Hundreds of Artworks by NYC Teenagers Go on View at the Met
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NYC’s Flatiron Building Sells for a Whopping $190M
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McKnight Visual Artist Fellows Discussion Series at the Minneapolis Institute of Art
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The Best Memes Roasting the “We ❤️ NYC” Campaign
A graphic designer on Twitter created a hilarious send-up of the universally reviled logo, and the rest is history.
Did You Know These Museums Were Free for New Yorkers?
The “Free Admission” campaign is advocating to make ticket pricing information more transparent to visitors, who may be confused or misled by institutions’ language.