Museum showcasing a history of phones

by Stephen Dafoe

Alberta will launch its fourth area code this weekend. The new province-wide 825 area code will fill the void when the 403, 587, and 780 area codes run out.

The province only had one area code (403) until 1999. On Jan. 1 of that year, the 780 was introduced for Northern Alberta. The 587 area code joined the existing two in September of 2008 for use throughout the province.

A new display at the Musée Morinville Museum looks further back in the province’s and Morinville’s history with telecommunications.

The display includes many phones ranging from an example of the first phone used in the community to brick-sized early models of cellular phones.

Morinville Museum Operations Attendant Donna Garrett said Morinville’s namesake Father Jean-Baptiste Morin introduced telephones to the community 120 years ago this October.

“Father Morin was a telephone operator and the government furnished him with 11 miles of telephone line,” Garrett said. “Volunteers built and planted the poles, and in 1896 the telephone line between Morinville and St. Albert was complete. You did have to go to the mission, and a call cost 20 cents, which was a lot back then.”

Garrett said the settlers Morin brought to the community were instrumental in cutting and preparing the telephone poles.

“The settlers provided the tamarack poles, 16 for each mile,” Garrett explained. “That was a lot of work. The government provided two phones. Morin worked for the government bringing settlers to the area.”

Accompanying the museum’s display of Morinville’s introduction to the telephone is a display of the various phones over the years.

Garrett said the exhibit was loaned to the Musée Morinville Museum by one of the museum’s volunteers husbands who retired from Alberta Government Telephone, a crown corporation that provided phone service to most of the province from 1906 to 1991.

“This was at AGT and they, in turn, donated it to Morinville from their historical collection,” Garrett said.

The AGT exhibit of phones joins some early phones already in the museum’s collection.

They can all be viewed Wednesday through Saturday from noon until 5 p.m. The Musée Morinville Museum is located in the former Convent building at the back of St. Jean Baptiste Park.

You can visit them online at




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