FREDONIA - Many residents take pride in knowing the history of the area where they live. Whether it was the home of someone famous, a tragedy that rocked a community, or a local entrepreneur who succeeded in making a name and achieving the "American Dream," there is a sense of ownership in these small victories that goes to all in the community.
One such man was Arthur Maytum, who in 1898 began a venture that nearly single-handedly brought the telephone and telecommunications to the Dunkirk and Fredonia area. In 1998, shortly after the centennial celebration of Maytum's company, Dunkirk and Fredonia Telephone (now DFT Communications) a group of employees founded the Telecommunications Society of Fredonia, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.
The society's main goal was to exhibit and display the history of telecommunications; from Alexander Graham Bell and his telegraph through the digital world today. Originally, a building was renovated at 36 Center St. in Fredonia to house the Telecommunications Museum, dedicated to increasing knowledge and interest of not only DFT, but telephony as a whole in the area.
"Our goal is to raise awareness, to share this knowledge with students, community members, really anyone who wants to know more," said Nick Green, a TSF board member and its founding chairman. "We're so excited for this move and the opportunity to enhance the museum."
The move that Green is referring to is one that has been in the works since late summer of 2012. Located next to the DFT offices is 44 Temple St., a beautifully restored Victorian-era establishment. Formerly home to Tower Gifts, the lower floor was vacated last year. After deciding who would be the next to move in, it seemed good to all that the Telecommunications Museum get a new location - and a few upgrades.
"We had needs for a larger space, and we wanted to take things to the next level," said Dan Siracuse, president of the TSF. "We felt 44 (Temple St.) gave us that ability to update and move things up."
Some of the upgrades include, besides a significant amount of more space, interactivity on a level the museum hasn't seen before. Each item in the museum is now tagged with a number, and those numbers coincide with a computer program. Visitors can click on the number of the item and read about its use, history and other important details. There are three of these computers located in the building, and they are perched, appropriately, atop telephone cable reels.
Another upgrade is the addition of Smart HD TVs in various rooms of the museum. These HD TVs will display preprogrammed content that shares information with visitors about the items in that room. Additionally, there are plans to include voiceovers from the late Robert Maytum Sr., Arthur's son, who details a bit of the history of DFT.
For tours of the museum, call 673-1876 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to make an appointment. There will be an opening ceremony in August, and a grand opening in September when students, some of the most frequent museum goers. For more information, visit telecommunicationsmuseum.org.