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Stoke Heath, England

National Telephone Kiosk Collection

An ode to the classic piece of British street furniture. 

When nearly everyone is contactable at the press of a button and there are more cell phones than people in the world, it’s hard to imagine a time when the curbside phone kiosk provided an essential service. It’s a moment in our technological history that is celebrated to a rather obsessive degree at the United Kingdom’s National Telephone Kiosk Collection, which is preserved within the grounds of the Avoncroft Museum of Historic Buildings.

Here, 32 telephone kiosks document the historical development of this piece of street furniture, including examples of every design employed in the U.K. from 1912 the 1990s. Some of the most readily recognizable members of the collection are the classic red kiosks and the blue police booths made famous by Doctor Who. The collection also contains two mobile exchanges and a stationary telephone exchange that date from the 20th and 21st centuries. 

Though modern technology has rendered these classic British icons obsolete, the collection is a fun relic of a time gone by. People can peer inside the phone booths for a glimpse at the communication methods of the past—some of the older kiosks even contain carpets and special shelves for holding phone directories. For those keen on a bit of retro-communication, several of the kiosks are connected to one another and calls can be made between them.