The development of the phone from functional tool to object of desire is explored next month in a series of mini-installations inspired by artefacts, images and sounds from BT Archives.

Seeing Voices: Inside BT Archives brings to life themes including how advertising positioned the phone as a must-have lifestyle accessory and how the language of telephony was invented.

Designed by MA Design Writing Criticism students at London College of Communication, the interactive installations allow visitors to recreate the sex and glamour of 1970s and 80s advertising, hear audio of early telephonists and the first long distance calls, and discover how the “magic” behind the phone was explained to its first users.

The students have published their responses to the archive in Fieldstudy, a collection of seven studies that interpret artefacts and ideas from the archive within the history of telecommunications. The seven studies that have inspired the installations are:

*In Phone, In Fashion, an examination of advertisements of the 70s and 80s which use images of “glossy women” to position the phone as a desirable purchase, marking the emergence of phone shops which allowed customers to buy their own phone rather than rent from BT.

*A Very British [Design] Coup, showing how the GPO used graphic designers for the first time to create iconic advertisements

*Scripting The Future Of Technology, looking at how the language of telephony was formalised, including very precise instructions to telephonists on how to pronounce numbers

*Still Closer Together, exploring how long distance calling changed our perception of distance and even brought Queen Elizabeth II closer to her dominions

* Shorthand Science And Magic Lessons, a study of how early users were introduced to the technology of telephony through the language of enchantment

*With Kindest Regards, the tale of an exhibition that never was through the voices of eleven GPO public relations officers who tried, and failed, to create a travelling telephone exhibition for the Graham Bell centenary

*Modern Call, an investigation of the role of artists in communicating the complexities and excitement of new technology to the public

Seeing Voices: Inside BT Archives

2 March – 11 March 2011
Well Gallery, London College of Communication, London SE1 6SB
Monday – Friday 10am-6pm, Saturday 10am-4pm. Nearest tube Elephant & Castle

More information is available here