University Museum

Current Exhibit

old phone technology

Before We Were 'Smart'

Looking Back at Campus Technology

January 24 - June 5
Today technology seems to change on a daily basis! But imagine living in the late 19th century during the invention of electric lights (1879), cameras (1827), phones (1876), typewriters (1867) and recording equipment (1877). What a remarkable change you would experience in your quality of life.

When UNH (then called the New Hampshire College of Agriculture and the Mechanic Arts) first opened its doors in 1866 in Hanover, NH, on the campus of Dartmouth College, there were no electric lights, no phones, and no cars. Long distances were covered by horse and buggy or by train. Communications by telegrams and handwritten letters were delivered by these same methods. And so it was when the College made preparation in 1892 to relocate to Durham.

Several of the engineering faculty helped design the new college buildings using the most up-to-date practices of the time. The 1893 college bulletin boasted of a campus equipped with what today would be called “state-of-the-art” facilities and a modern infrastructure that provided heat, light, water and power to every building from a central location in the shops building (now Hewitt Hall).

In 1894, a telephone line was installed in a store across the street from T-Hall. The faculty then ran lines from the store, connecting their homes with their offices and the college buildings.

We’re ‘smart’ because of those who came before us; and those sometimes drab and clunky behemoths of our past become obsolete more quickly today. To celebrate UNH’s 150th, we’ve assembled a fun look back at technologies of the distant and recent past, drawn from UNH and local collections. In most cases, the curator has no idea how this stuff worked!

Have fun in the ‘Hands On’ section of the display!


The University Museum is located on Level 1 in Dimond Library in Special Collections & Archives.


Monday through Friday 12:00 PM to 4:00 PM
Wednesday 12:00 PM to 8:00 PM (during regular semester hours)
Closed between exhibits

See the Hours page for regular Library hours and exceptions.