At most museums, plugging collection gaps involves a prolonged game of carefully probing backchannels, awaiting generous patronage, and making opportunistic swoops in the auction market. The soon-to-be Mobile Phone Museum, however, is taking an all together more direct approach. 

Prominent on its fledgling website is a “Most Wanted” page, detailing models still outstanding from its collection. This includes the Mobira Senator, which echoes a World War II radio transceiver, and the wonderfully named Samsung Serene, a late-2000s creation resembling a compass crossed with a compact. The museum’s goal is somewhat self-evident: to become the go-to institution tracing the 35-year history of the mobile phone.  

What is the Mobile Phone Museum?

The museum’s 2,000-strong collection has been amassed by its founders over 25 years. Image: Mobile Phone Museum

A collection of more than 2,000 mobile phones spanning 200 manufacturers from robust models dating from the 1980s to their sleek modern counterparts. Launched by technologists and avid collectors, Ben Wood and Matt Chatterly, the museum aims to become both a definitive archive and educational platform for younger generations. 

Though beginning life as an online-only organization, it hopes to run educational pop-up exhibitions, in part aided by the five-year partnership agreement it has with telecommunications giant Vodafone.

Why it matters

At a time when cultural institutions are still recalibrating and exploring how best to share collections and expertise digitally, the Mobile Phone Museum arrives as a truly online-first organization. As a consequence, it’s intuitive to navigate, aesthetically pleasing, and ready to welcome a global audience — in contrast to many of its traditional counterparts. 

It also presents an alternate model for cultural projects. The pandemic has raised profound financial sustainability questions, and the museum will operate without the overhead burdens of physical institutions and has the ability to strategically iterate, innovate, and target audiences with its rolling pop-up exhibitions. In addition, the museum’s focus on mobile phone technology opens it up to potentially lucrative partnerships from sponsorships, such as the aforementioned Vodafone deal, to pop-up collaborators and merchandise. 

What the museum said

“The Mobile Phone Museum has been conceived to celebrate the pure brilliance of the design and impact of the age of mobile phones — to capture, preserve, and share the stories behind some of the most iconic and impactful products of the last century, but also to educate, inform, and inspire future generations of the power of design and technology.” — Mobile Phone Museum


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