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The Oslo Donations

In June 2017 the museum received an email from RESO (Real Estate Strategy & Operations) that they were relocating IBM Norway’s Oslo headquarters this year. There were several artefacts that they would not be able to accommodate, and would we be interested in acquiring these for Hursley.

The voluntary museum curators have a strong ethic for preservation, but are also acutely aware of the space limitations in Hursley. Curator Peter Short made contact with Oslo to find out what was on offer. The reply came from an IBM Norway retiree, Kjell Markhus, who had been tasked with assisting with the clear out, who sent a Dropbox link to a number of photographs of the storage facility. Apparently these machines had been there since 1985, following celebrations for IBM Norway’s 50th anniversary in that year. We agreed that the best approach would be to set up a Skype video call to go over the contents of the room in detail and decide what artefacts we would like to be sent over.

Oslo room  Oslo room

 Oslo room          Oslo room          Oslo room

As you can see from these pictures, which only show part of the room, there was an awful lot of old kit to look through. A couple of Skype calls later and we had a list of what would be of interest to Hursley. Much of what was on offer we already have in the museum, so we were easily able to weed those out. They ended up as EE waste, as the middle picture shows. Kjell then proceeded to photograph everything we had selected and created a spreadsheet with full details. Then followed the inevitable problem of finding funding for the shipment.

By mid-August IBM Norway's Marie Gjelsten was able to confirm they would fund the transport costs as long as we could provide the manpower to unload at our end. This we agreed, Marie organised the shipment and in September the transport company collected the shipment. A lot of coordination went on in the background, with Julian Gerry spending lots of his valuable time talking to the Oslo people and the transport company. The trailer was held up for several days on Immingham docks until Julian could find the funding to pay import duty, not a huge amount but tricky in times of austerity and when there is no budget for the museum. The lorry finally arrived during October and we were able to get it reasonably close to the House. CBRE's David James unloaded everything with a fork-lift into the area in front of the stable block. Unfortunately the load had not been properly tied down, so the heavier machines had moved and caused some damage. It also turned out that a number of artefacts had for some reason not been loaded, so they are still sitting in Oslo until we can find funding to ship.

oslo  oslo 
How not to ship heavy stuff                                                 Everything unloaded

oslo  oslo
Weekend resting place                                                         Unhappy 029 card punch left outside
Once everything had been unloaded, three of the voluntary curators, Nick Bishop, Peter Coghlan and Peter Short, were left to move everything into the museum themselves. It was Friday afternoon and nobody was available to help. By late afternoon we were somewhat knackered, and managed to seek some help to move the remaining machines into the stable block archway until after the weekend. On the Monday Dave Key and David James helped the three of us to get the remaining hardware inside. The 416 tabulator gave us an interesting problem. Not only had it lost a wheel, but it was also too wide to get through the door. Anything sticking out the front was removed, and it was wheeled in with millimetres to spare. Rolling a three-wheeled dead weight of several hundred kilos did provide some interesting moments!

  oslo  oslo
The 416 Tabulator stripped to door width                          And back together again, but only 3 wheels

Most of the bigger items were put straight out on display, with some dynamic planning centred on what would fit through which doors. Wooden blocks replaced missing legs and wheels for now. The 029 card punch was somewhat legless, so had to be repaired before putting out on display. The remaining items were stored in the back office, and many have now also gone out on display. In particular the ‘Origins of IBM’ story is now in two rooms, one with punch card equipment (the ‘T’ of CTR) and the other with clocks and time recorders (‘R’) and the computing scales (‘C’). Our oldest artefact is now an original Hollerith pantograph card punch, which is dated 1889.

oslo  oslo
‘__T__’                                                                                       ‘C____R’

oslo  oslo
029 and 5496                                                                           Pantograph punch, 1889

We are extremely grateful to IBM Norway for their generous donation, and to everyone involved in the process.

There’s a slide show with a fuller set of photos here: .