How do you eat an elephant?

How does one eat an elephant? – this was a poignant question posed to me today.

How do you eat an elephant?

The context? I have been allowed the mammoth opportunity to catalogue a tower full of treasures. How did this come about? Well, the good people at the Hurdy Gurdy Museum of Vintage Radio have let me in, to document as much of their vast collection as is possible. The contents of the Martello Tower, over looking Irelands Eye island in Howth Co. Dublin is comprised of all manner of communication devices spanning decades and even centuries.

The collection is a lifetime compilation of the museum’s curator, Mr. Patrick Herbert. Pat gained access to the historical tower which was used by Marconi’s communications company since 1905 and had its first broadcast in 1903. It’s the ideal site to house this collection. Even though Pat and his band of volunteers have provided this museum service for the past ten years, the collection had not been catalogued. As this venture is not for profit and purely for the love of radio, I asked if I could create a catalogue of these much cared for items.

So, where to start? I first needed to check if the museum had the basics which, we or at least I, very much take for granted these days: broadband and a functioning computer. Phew, it was all there.

Now I had options. My initial research into collection managment systems (open source of course) lead me to create a local server. I began this process, but the deeper I got into it the more cons there were than pros. I looked at “Collective Access” and other such systems. Testing the Apache server proved too slow on my computer. For this reason, I felt that any excessive drain on the museum’s computer was not an option, so I looked to the cloud for another solution.

Luckily web 2.0 offers a wealth of options. My favourite and chosen tool is Here a free collection management space allows 500MB which is ample for this project, as can hold up to 5000 items if the photo size is reduced significantly.

In order to failsafe against account losses or other incidents, I also decided to create a local Access database. This database will hold a back-up list of all items in the Omeka space.

So how do you eat an elephant? One bit at a time…

Originally composed in June 2012


This is the home of the blog for the Hurdy Gurdy cataloguers… here we will share our progress and chart our journey as we catalogue the collection held within Martello Tower #2 at Howth, Co. Dublin.

The museum houses a collection of all manner of artefacts relating to the history of communication and of Ireland.