Colossus 10 machine with wrens present

Bletchley Park: New Crisis For Code Breaking Hub

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BBC / Arrow Media / Bletchley Park

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Bletchley Park is home to the Colossus, the world's first large electronic computer, which went into operation in 1944

It is one of the most important places in the history of reckoning and Britain's victory against Nazism.

But now, for the second time in a little over a decade, the future of Bletchley Park hangs in the balance.

Over the weekend, it emerged that the museum at the Code-Breaking Center was facing a financial crisis during the war due to the coronavirus – and that meant it was preparing to lay off 35 people, a third of its workforce.

After closing for more than three months, the museum opened with reduced capacity due to social distancing regulations and the museum is well on its way to losing £ 2m ($ 2.6m).

The executive director of Bletchley Park said the main strength of the successful museum and visitor attraction it has built in recent years is its people: "However, the economic impact of the current crisis is having a profound impact on the trust's viability.

"We have exhausted all other options and we must act now to ensure that the trust survives and is sustainable in the future."

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Hut 6, where much of the early code breaking was done

I first visited Bletchley Park in 2008 when it was in a sad state.

The huts where Alan Turing and thousands of other young men and women had worked to break German codes collapsed, and visitors had no real sense of the meaning of what was going on.

I came to see Dr. Sue Black, a computer scientist who rounded up many of her colleagues to sign a letter to the Times calling for action to be taken to save the site.

Their campaign proved remarkably successful, largely due to their skillful use of social media, which was a relatively new phenomenon at the time.

She persuaded Stephen Fry and other celebrities to visit the site, and a constant stream of tweets and Facebook posts built a passionate community around Bletchley Park.

Finally, a large grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and large donations from technology companies helped restore the site and build a museum that tells the Bletchley story well.

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Media signatureThe secrets of World War II are on display in Bletchley Park

I spoke to Sue Black this morning and she was naturally concerned about the latest news from a website that she says is fundamental to world history because it has saved millions of lives.

She launched this new rally cry, "It is time for the tech industry, and for all of us as a community to care for our heritage, to support Bletchley Park through these troubled times and to find significant sources of income that don't have to be personal visitors never bother telling such an important story to future generations. "

"We have exhausted all other options and we must act now to make sure the trust survives and is sustainable in the future," said Iain Standen, executive director of the Bletchley Park Trust

Of course, Bletchley Park is just one of many museums and arts organizations grappling with an unprecedented financial crisis.

But perhaps its significant place in technology history as the place where Turing and others worked on early computing devices has an advantage.

After all, today's tech giants are thriving during the pandemic and can be compassionate when asked to help one of the birthplaces of the computer age.