30 Dec 2012

The Hurdy Gurdy and Social Media

Martello Tower #2 completed in 1805
One of the great successes from our short time cataloguing at the Hurdy Gurdy has been our introduction of social media to provide information on the composition of the collection. The team who operate the Hurdy Gurdy, stalworths of hard work and knowledge, had already set up a Facebook page and created a website. With the addition of our Omeka catalogue we could highlight the collection as we updated the catalogue. However, through a conversation one day at the Museum, it became apparent to us all, that Twitter was the modern communication equivalent of Marconi and De Forest. So we set up a Twitter account for the Hurdy Gurdy and began promoting the collection to as wide an audience as possible. Thus began our small effort to follow in the footsteps of the National Library of Ireland who have increased their audience engagement via Twitter and Flickr, by putting a more ‘human’ face on a national institution. 

1929 national collection receipt
Our initial strategy began with following people and organisations that were somehow associated with radio, history, and museums. Very quickly we received retweets, favourites and our steady band of ‘followers’ started to increase. The weekend that we tweeted images of a receipt for the 1929 Fianna Fรกil national collection we received a huge amount of interest. As Marie-Therese had set up Google analytics on our Omeka site, it was easy to calculate when our audience had been viewing the collection and what was of particular interest.

Google analytics for October
This interest encouraged us in our efforts in highlighting the collection to as wide an audience as possible. So we refocused our efforts on cataloguing the Irish ephemera within the Museum’s collection.  As with everything concerning the operation of the catalogue and the metadata collection, this is a team effort, we both tweet and manage the Twitter interaction for the site, in between our day jobs. This is the real bonus of social media; we can manage to keep it all going because of how easy it is to connect with our audience via our smartphones, laptops, and tablets. 

Rental receipt from 1908 with Edward VII stamp
Twitter has proved invaluable, as we’ve shared items from the collection with not only our Irish followers, but have engendered interest as far afield as Rio and the United States. Now on any given weekend, we can have visitors through the door from Japan, Luxembourg or the Ukraine. Twitter, Facebook, the website not to mention the Omeka catalogue  enable us to spread our ‘Hurdy Gurdy’ net even further. We have regular conversations now with a follower in San Francisco who is Irish, broadcasting a radioshow of pre-1950’s recordings. These are connections we couldn’t have made via the normal avenues available to a small independent museum. Overtime, we hope to increase the amount of interest in our collection, in the Martello Tower itself and in the history of communication within the island of Ireland. This hopefully will be achieved by our use of social media, our cataloguing of the vast collection and by the interest and engagement of our audience.  

Sarah Connolly - Cataloguer Hurdy Gurdy Museum of Vintage Radio
Marie-Therese Carmody - Cataloguer Hurdy Gurdy Museum of Vintage Radio


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