In the following sentence:

Old Connections, a telecommunications museum in Seattle, with a working exchange from the 1940s, shows/showed how telephones brought us together, but also tore us apart.

show or shown

I feel both shows and showed can be used here. But my teacher told me the standard answer was shows.

But is this really the case ?

BTW, this is a follow-up question to my old one The simple past tense confusion, why use "was" instead of "is" here, "the classic 1984 was a broader critique of totalitarianism ..."?

Because Chinese does not have verb tense, when it comes to the case that both present tense and past tense seem to work I am always confused.

  • 3
    If the museum is still operating, and you can visit in the present, then 'shows is correct. Commented May 12, 2023 at 8:07
  • Yes now I see it but what about my other question in the other comment ? Commented May 12, 2023 at 8:11

2 Answers 2


I agree with your teacher; I would use shows. The sentence is talking about a museum and what it shows to anyone who visits it now. (The fact that the museum's name, Old Connections, is in the plural is not relevant - it is one museum.)

(Edited because the OP originally stated that the teacher said show.)

  • sorry I mean shows, present tense. Commented May 12, 2023 at 7:59
  • I am not confused with the museum name. I know "Old Connection" is the name. I am a little bit confused with the fact/words that "a working exchange from the 1940s", so should I use shows or showed for this working exchange ? Commented May 12, 2023 at 8:02
  • 3
    @Quilong The artifacts in the museum are from the past, but the museum is (in the present) showing how the introduction of telephone (in the past) brought us together. So it is "shows" present tense, but "brought" past tense. Commented May 12, 2023 at 8:07
  • 1
    A museum tells us now about things that happened in the past. The invention and spread of telephones happened a long time ago. Commented May 12, 2023 at 9:09
  • 1
    We could say that a history book shows us now (today, when we read it), how the introduction of gunpowder changed warfare (in the past, hundreds of years ago). Commented May 12, 2023 at 9:19

"shows" is correct.

The simplest form of the sentence is:

Old Connections shows (something).

The phrase, "a telecommunications museum in Seattle" describes what "Old Connections" is, and "with a working exchange from the 1940s" gives some detail about "museum".


The Seattle museum "Old Connections" shows us how telephones brought us together, but also tore us apart, by displaying old objects, like a 1940s telephone exchange that still works.

If you say "showed", it means the museum showed things in the past, but doesn't show things now.

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