George Kupczak really likes his job. Curly-haired and bespectacled, brimming with enthusiasm, he’s the manager of the AT&T Archives and History Center in Warren, New Jersey. The facility, a beige warehouse with only a small sign indicating its importance, houses more than 10,000 artifacts. There are also 10,000 films and videos and over a million photos, all of which Kupczak spends his days exploring and cataloguing. He’s the go-to guy for scholars, writers, filmmakers — anyone interested in the story of AT&T. “For the most part, it’s a nice gig,” he says with a laugh.

Ma Bell’s history, he explains, is richer and more wide-reaching than many people realize. Of course, there’s the company’s origins with Alexander Graham Bell: the archive includes his 1876 patent awarded for invention of the telephone. The invaluable document resides in a fireproof vault, where any errant flame would trigger safety measures, sucking all the oxygen from the room. Other priceless artifacts kept in the vault include a connective wire from that first phone and a notebook that once belonged to Thomas A. Watson. In its brown and brittle pages you can find Watson’s description of the first telephone conversation, on March 10, 1876.