While on vacation I went on a small road-trip across Estonia. During the second half of the trip I ended up being in Võrumaa, and while driving I suddenly remembered a random fact that some people mentioned in a hackerspace Slack channel: there’s a new museum around here!

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The museum was officially opened on 10th of June 2023 (more news coverage from ERR) and when me and my wife got there, we were visitors number 96 and 97. By the time we arrived there, other visitors were wrapping up and we were greeted by the owner of the museum.

The bulk of the museum lives in a small wooden house. While the building might be small, there was plenty to look at on the inside. Old servers, mobile phones, rotary dial phones, telecommunications equipment, promotional phone company materials from 90s and 00s, it had it all. Some of the phones were even connected together and you could make actual calls between them.

Promotional materials and actual customer support desks that used to belong to EMT (Eesti Mobiiltelefon), a telecom
company that operated since 1991.
Promotional materials and actual customer support desks that used to belong to EMT (Eesti Mobiiltelefon), a telecom company that operated since 1991.
Ads used to be wild.
Ads used to be wild.
Lots of older mobile phones. Most of them were relevant during various parts of my childhood.
Lots of older mobile phones. Most of them were relevant during various parts of my childhood.
Big mobile phones.
Big mobile phones.
The biggest mobile phone: promotional display monitor shaped as one of the first iPhones.
The biggest mobile phone: promotional display monitor shaped as one of the first iPhones.

Next to the building was an actual 2G/3G tower. Not as high as the real thing, but all the equipment was there and set up. It wasn’t connected or operating for obvious reasons, but still, pretty cool to look at. So cool that I forgot to take a picture of it.

There were a bunch of old payphones lined up near the museum building. If I remember correctly, one of those was connected up to the other phones inside. Now these were a blast from the past, I remember seeing these payphones all over Tallinn during 2000s, didn’t use them much myself though. The payphones also contained examples of plastic cards that you had to use to be able to use the payphone. Those had all sorts of wild designs so there was plenty of opportunity for personalization.

Payphone with various pay cards present behind a plastic shield.
Payphone with various pay cards present behind a plastic shield.
Party like it's 1999.
Party like it's 1999.

The yard contains a selection of signs from telecom companies over the years. Those used to live on the outside of buildings or within shopping centers.

You can see when the rebranding started and evolved.
You can see when the rebranding started and evolved.
The signs are bigger than you realize when you get closer to them.
The signs are bigger than you realize when you get closer to them.

The highlight of the museum for me was the owner and maintainer, Marko Koemets. It’s clear from the way he speaks that he is passionate about communications equipment and technology in general. With each exhibition he always had interesting stories to share, either about the equipment on display or the history of Estonian telecommunications starting from the 90s. I won’t spoil any of those here, you’ll have to visit and hear them first-hand.

He also shared some future plans with the museum. If there are enough donations, then the museum is going to expand with a second building dedicated to old laptops. The owner has 600+ laptops waiting to be shown off.

If you ever find yourself in south-east Estonia and you’re interested in this type of tech, then do give this place a visit. Details about opening times, prices and contact information can be found on this lovely appropriately themed website.

If you can’t make it there physically but are interested in supporting the museum, then you can make donations to the bank account listed on the website. You’ll also get a mention on the website! There’s also merch that you can buy on-site to support the museum.

Ultra limited edition "Side ja laptopi muuseum" mug. Inside are some pens, two of them belonging to a telecommunications
company EMT.
Ultra limited edition "Side ja laptopi muuseum" mug. Inside are some pens, two of them belonging to a telecommunications company EMT.

I recommend checking the website and details about the opening times before planning a visit. At the time of writing you need to call ahead to set up a visit. It’s definitely worth the effort and after the visit you can explore south Estonia, there’s plenty to see and do there.

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