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Bletchley Park's Bitter Dispute Over Its Future

timothy posted about 3 months ago | from the all-things-to-all-people dept.

United Kingdom 99

An anonymous reader writes "Tensions are high at Bletchley Park between the new management who want a 21st century installment and the volunteers who want to show the whole story (and get dismissed for doing so). This report [Note: video, with sound] is from the BBC: 'The groundbreaking intelligence work carried out at Bletchley Park during the second world war was credited with bringing forward the end of the conflict. In 2011 the site was awarded a £4.6m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). But Bletchley is currently in the throes of a bitter dispute, between owners who want to create a brand new visitors centre, and volunteers who have been working on the site for years.'"

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99 comments

History is historic (4, Informative)

gweihir (88907) | about 3 months ago | (#46072485)

Do not modernize it. What I hear is greed and desire for attention from the new owners. Nothing even remotely appropriate for the site.

Re:History is historic (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46072525)

100% this

Re:History is historic (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46072559)

Seconded.

Re:History is historic (1)

outlander (140799) | about 3 months ago | (#46085751)

Having been there in 2012, I agree. It's wonderful as is, and is an excellent monument to human ingenuity. And the volunteers are spectacular.

Re:History is historic (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46072939)

You been there? It's a dump.

Re:History is historic (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46073045)

How quickly we forget.

As recently as 2008, Bletchley Park was on the edge of financial ruin. The thing that saved it was the new management, who increased visitor numbers and therefore revenue. Had they not done that, this most historic site would be blocks of flats now.

The people running Bletchley Park today are, for the most part, the exact same people who saved it. If you've actually been to Bletchley Park recently, you'll know that you simply can't run it the way it was being run AND accommodate 2-3 times as many visitors. The tours had to be streamlined, and the collections rationalised. You really think most people go to Bletchley Park to see a model railway and a collection of Winston Churchill tea towels?

There's much more to this story than the BBC report suggests. The fact that the BBC has removed it from their web site after less than 24 hours should be your first clue that all is not as it seems.

Re:History is historic (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46073109)

How quickly we forget.

As recently as 2008, Bletchley Park was on the edge of financial ruin. The thing that saved it was the new management, who increased visitor numbers and therefore revenue. Had they not done that, this most historic site would be blocks of flats now.

The people running Bletchley Park today are, for the most part, the exact same people who saved it. If you've actually been to Bletchley Park recently, you'll know that you simply can't run it the way it was being run AND accommodate 2-3 times as many visitors. The tours had to be streamlined, and the collections rationalised. You really think most people go to Bletchley Park to see a model railway and a collection of Winston Churchill tea towels?

There's much more to this story than the BBC report suggests. The fact that the BBC has removed it from their web site after less than 24 hours should be your first clue that all is not as it seems.

This is pure rubbish, reg the blocks of flats.
That issue was in the 90s and BP was then saved... Yes *surprise* by the hard work of volunteers!

And yes... There is more to the BBC story... Tony isn't the first or last who got sacked. The truth will come out eventually.

Re:History is historic (2)

Bahamut_Omega (811064) | about 3 months ago | (#46073357)

Hopefully the CEO will be called back for being a coward and also get fired. His credentials may look impressive, but his manners belong in the brig. I wouldn't be surprised if Mr. Iain Standen's attitude gets him heaved like a bloody anchor off the ship. Stuff like this makes the governing board look like they should be getting a few tastes of the proverbial cat o' nine tails.

Frankly from what I had seen, he seems to be more of the kind for getting the gibbet. Antique method of killing that happened to pre-date the guillotine by a few hundred years.

Re:History is historic (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46073187)

The people running Bletchley Park today are, for the most part, the exact same people who saved it.

Not true. The majority of decision-makers at Bletchley Park now present came in after the lottery funding was secured.

You really think most people go to Bletchley Park to see a model railway and a collection of Winston Churchill tea towels?

Actually, yes. The model railway was very popular with families as a day at Bletchley Park can be tough on younger children. Churchill collection was much more than tea towels.

Re:History is historic (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46073629)

Absolute nonsense.

How quickly we forget.

As recently as 2008, Bletchley Park was on the edge of financial ruin. The thing that saved it was the new management, who increased visitor numbers and therefore revenue. Had they not done that, this most historic site would be blocks of flats now.

The "new" management, in the shape of new CEO Iain Standen, arrived in 2012. Since then the relationship between BPT and other stakeholders and volunteers on the park has been going downhill rapidly. His predecessor, Simon Greenish, whilst not perfect, at least seemed to understand the importance of volunteers and the many varied and interesting private collections on the park.

The people running Bletchley Park today are, for the most part, the exact same people who saved it. If you've actually been to Bletchley Park recently, you'll know that you simply can't run it the way it was being run AND accommodate 2-3 times as many visitors.

Except there aren't 2-3 times as many visitors, and it's hard to see why there ever will be when the things visitors came to see are being shut down one by one. The real people who saved the park back in the 90s are exactly those volunteers and private collections that are now being systemically removed.

The tours had to be streamlined, and the collections rationalised. You really think most people go to Bletchley Park to see a model railway and a collection of Winston Churchill tea towels?

The main tour was shortened from 90 mins to 60 mins because it was felt to be too much for elderly visitors. That was a decision that volunteers were involved in, on the understanding that there would be further tour options to take in e.g. Colossus at TNMOC. However, that has not happened and visitors are now left to find their own way to TNMOC, which is no longer allowed to sell tickets in Block B and is not promoted by BPT at all. The BPT tour guide who was "sacked" whilst the BBC were there filming (and that was NOT planned btw) was dismissed because he had the temerity to take some visitors over to TNMOC to see Colossus. That is how ridiculous the situation has become.

And yes, absolutely, the varied collections provided something for the whole family. The park HAS to remain a family attraction to survive long term. A narrow focus on WW2 codebreaking could be a little dry for most, especially children, and I somehow doubt there are enough hardcore "geek" visitors to keep the doors open.

Re:History is historic (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about 3 months ago | (#46074589)

You paint it as black and white. The new managers may have saved it, that doesn't mean that all their actions are good.

I'd say the large issue is why did the country allow a historic site to be threatened. It's not like maintaining a historic site is ruinously expensive. The state should say "Eh, chaps, this is going to be funded with taxpayer money. Marmelade. Here's a cheque for the property, here's a cheque for maintenence. Tea time and crumpets" and that could be that. Why does history need to make a profit to be saved? The religion of free-market worship has gone too far, insisting that historical sites make money or be bulldozed is one symptom of that.

Re:History is historic (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46074751)

I'd say the large issue is why did the country allow a historic site to be threatened. It's not like maintaining a historic site is ruinously expensive. The state should say "Eh, chaps, this is going to be funded with taxpayer money.

Bletchley Park (Station X) was a well kept secret until the late 1970s
All but 2 of the Colossus' were dismantled and their very existence was not officially recognised until even later.

This is why the site was under threat, its historical significance was simply not understood.

Re:History is historic (0)

Lumpy (12016) | about 3 months ago | (#46075221)

Most people are walking morons, they will NEVER understand it's historical significance. The company in charge of it now could give a rats ass about historical significance.. They care about profits.

Re:History is historic (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46081427)

Why is not Bletchley Park the UK equivalent of a national park or historic site?

Re:History is historic (1)

outlander (140799) | about 3 months ago | (#46085779)

Exactly. The second world war was won, in large part, by the efforts of Bletchley Park (and its cognates elsewhere in the world).

It is a terribly important historical site. The copy of Colossus there is a major milestone in the history of computing.

Re:History is historic (2)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 3 months ago | (#46073627)

What I hear is greed and desire for attention from the new owners.

Greed = Make enough money to keep the place running and pay the salaries of the people saying that money is not important.
Desire for Attention = Attract visitors, and educate people about what happened there.

Re:History is historic (2)

Frosty Piss (770223) | about 3 months ago | (#46074059)

Greed = Make enough money to keep the place running and pay the salaries of the people saying that money is not important.
Desire for Attention = Attract visitors, and educate people about what happened there.

Pretty much. If they can't get endowments from rich people, the money has to come from somewhere. Just maintaining buildings of that vintage is a spendy proposition, where does the cash come from?

Sure, turning it into a "tourist trap" is short-sighted, but they have to develop a realistic plan to generate money for operating expenses.

By the way, I wonder if it's possible to have a letter post-marked from their "secret" post office...

Re:History is historic (4, Insightful)

gweihir (88907) | about 3 months ago | (#46074081)

Nonsense. You cannot run museums in a way that is profitable. Capitalism cannot fix everything, but can destroy a lot if misapplied.

Re:History is historic (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46074201)

wow, a visitors center is now greed, ok fine let it go back to 2008 when it was nearly broke, then it can fall into disrepair until it rots, would that satisfy your need for historic history and contempt for greed?

bunch of 99%er hate and bullshit strong with this one

Re:History is historic (4, Insightful)

expatriot (903070) | about 3 months ago | (#46074435)

I went there with two other nerds and we spend hours looking at the engines, parts, huts, and the computer museum also on the site. I liked the simple nature of the displays (technically complex of course, but simply presented). Something had to be done for the huts of course because wood.

I went again with my wife later (English teacher) and she was very impatient. "Why are you spending 15 minutes looking at a electronic part?" (custom rotor for the bombe.

You have to have the place be self sustaining and provide something for everyone.

Tricky balance.

The view from Bletchley Park (3, Informative)

westlake (615356) | about 3 months ago | (#46077859)

You have to have the place be self sustaining and provide something for everyone.

The very brief BBC broadcast on the 6 Oâ(TM)Clock News on the 24th January created an impression of disharmony within Bletchley Park.

The piece drew attention to three very different and separate issues;

The alleged treatment of volunteer guides
Private Collections being asked to leave the site
The access arrangements to The National Museum of Computing

In order to manage increasing numbers of visitors, and to make it more accessible and family friendly, the guided tour was reduced from 90 minutes plus to an hour. This revised tour was developed and implemented by a working group of staff and volunteers, and the great majority of our volunteers have embraced and supported the revised tours for nearly a year. Sadly, there was one exception where a tour guide who was unwilling to conduct tours in the agreed format has been asked to stand down from this role.

Some of the non-core private collections which have in recent years operated from the Bletchley Park site have been asked to relocate, as the parts of the site they occupy are to be restored to their wartime appearance and made available to help tell the remarkable story of WW2 Codebreaking. These buildings of high historic value, are artefacts in their own right and deserve to be interpreted accordingly, to reflect their importance and the profound impact of the work that took place inside them.

The National Museum of Computing was formed in 2006 and is run by a separate charitable trust. It willingly entered into a lease agreement with the Bletchley Park Trust to rent Block H on the Bletchley Park site to house its museum. This museum remains on-site and accessible, by way of a separate admission charge, to anyone visiting Bletchley Park. It is the Bletchley Park Trust's policy to have a solid working relationship with The National Museum of Computing and we intend that its exhibition should be enjoyed by visitors to Bletchley Park>p>Bletchley Park. The site is in the middle of a major, and much needed, £8 million Heritage Lottery Funded restoration project to bring the many historic buildings on the site back to a state of good repair and create an inspiring experience for its ever-increasing numbers of visitors. This will create a world class museum and heritage site which is a fitting memorial to the heroic codebreakers of Bletchley Park making the site much more sustainable and accessible to growing numbers of visitors.

Progress in Perspective [bletchleypark.org.uk]

Re:The view from Bletchley Park (1)

expatriot (903070) | about 3 months ago | (#46089289)

While I think it takes some commercial thinking, the trust has gone too far. It does not look like a reasonable comprimise is likely:

Tony Carroll, an elderly volunteer at Bletchley Park was fired after daring to show a tour group round the National Museum of Computing, which is based in the famous Block H which housed six Colossus computers during World War II. ...
Carroll said: "They are ruining this place. We are all very upset about not being able to tell the story we want to."

The Trust is planning for a bright future which does not include the National Museum of Computing. Visitors to Bletchley Park will no longer be allowed to visit the Colossus machine in Block H and fences may soon be erected to stop them visitors wandering between the two attractions.

In a statement, The National Museum of Computing said that visitor numbers have been dropping since the Trust began its war of attrition.

"Today most Bletchley Park Trust visitors miss the key experience of seeing the Colossus Rebuild and the Tunny machine in action and thereby miss out on key working exhibits representing the outstanding pinnacle of the World War II code-breaking story," a spokesman wrote.

"Negotiations with the Bletchley Park Trust to achieve a fair and equitable financial arrangement to give all Bletchley Park fee-paying visitors access to Colossus and Tunny have proved exceedingly difficult."

The BBC's footage showed Iain Standen, CEO of the Bletchley Park Trust, discussing getting rid of the volunteers.

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2... [theregister.co.uk]

Re:History is historic (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46089215)

I spent a whole day at Bletchley Park on my most recent visit.
My wife spent the same day visiting London Zoo.
We both had an absolutely amazing time.
My point: I don't expect zoos to be "dumbed down" for those of us who aren't that interested in watching animals sleep, and neither should tech/nerd/geek/whatever museums be dumbed down for those who aren't into tech/geeky stuff. The result of doing so would simply be mediocrity for all concerned.

Re:History is historic (1)

expatriot (903070) | about 3 months ago | (#46089321)

Leaving aside the meme that anything besides typing cryptic alphabetic strings into a command line interface is dumbing down, the world needs multiple perspectives.

Some of the things that non-nerds would like (at the version several years ago) were short movies showing the history, huts with photos or recreations of what was happening then, the Polish story (forgotten by most), or the shop with interesting toys. Not everyone cares about a shift register/accumulator made of ferrite cores.

The bigger issue here does not seem to be dumbing down however, it seems to be a power grab to displace the magnificient volunteers who really care about computing (and were only mildly chiding when we went into a closed section to look at some computers of our youth, was it so long ago I worked on a Univac or a 1401?). Bletchley was as much as anything a story about computing.

Reminder (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46072499)

It is rude to randomly redirect visitors to beta.slashdot.
Even more so because beta sucks.

Providing a hard to find opt-out, adding /?nobeta=1 to the url, just upgrades the aggravation level from "rude" to "insulting and infuriating".
The only acceptable option is, as always, opt-in.

I guess you need reminding. a lot.

Cancel the Slashdot Beta project now. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46072665)

I still can't believe that this Slashdot Beta project hasn't been canned. In any other organization, a project so badly implemented would have been canceled some time ago.

The technical problems with the Slashdot Beta are still extremely severe, even after what appears to be some attempts to fix some of the problems. There's still far too much wasted, empty space. The text still renders poorly, and the sizing and spacing is disproportionate in numerous places. The large story images are pointless, excessively large, and distracting. The front page design is unusable. It's damn near impossible to read the comments. Even submitting comments is harder to do now. The beta site feels so frigging slow.

It's also clear that the users here absolutely hate the beta site, and how it's being forced upon so many of us. With the response to the beta site being one of unanimous hatred, Slashdot ought to realize that it's totally disrespectful to subject us to something we dislike so much.

The beta site is so goddamn awful that it makes the current Slashdot site look superb, and the current site was itself a shitty attempt to fix up the much better site that preceded it. The implementation of this current site drove away a lot of valued users. Putting the beta site live will most likely drive away everyone else of value.

If the beta site goes live, I think we'll unfortunately see another Digg v4-style disaster. The beta site will severely disrupt the ability of the users to consume the content here, and will make participating in the remaining fragments of community here damn near impossible. People will no longer have any reason to visit. Digg v4 going live annihilated Digg. Slashdot Beta going live will, in my view, most likely annihilate Slashdot.

The Slashdot Beta project needs to be canceled now. It's a failed software project in every sense. It's technologically worse than what we have. Basically all of the users hate it. It brings absolutely no benefits.

There's no point in keeping this failed software project alive any longer. Put an end to it, please. Stop wasting resource on it. Mistakes happen, and the Slashdot Beta project is a good example of this. When this does occur, the sensible thing to do is to terminate the project as early as possible to cut one's losses, rather than stringing it along and eventually unleashing a far bigger disaster.

Simply put, the Slashdot Beta project needs to be ended now. The code needs to be thrown out (it clearly can't be reused or salvaged). And hopefully at least something can be learned from this whole ordeal: every single aspect of the Slashdot Beta was an absolute and total failure.

Re: Cancel the Slashdot Beta project now. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46072803)

I know it's off topic, but the Slashdot beta does really need to take a long walk off a short pier. Useless whitespace, looks terrible. If it ever goes live, Slashdot will bleed users. Please take this terrible new interface it back and shoot it before it's too late...

Leave it th fuck alone (4, Insightful)

jimmydevice (699057) | about 3 months ago | (#46072527)

Another example of the fucking suits disneyfying and monetizing a thing that is perfect as is.

fuck fuck fuck!

Re:Leave it th fuck alone (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46081283)

The place that's bleeding money and approaching closure again?

Re: Leave it th fuck alone (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46082671)

The thought of disneyfication has been terrifying.

Loss of memorabilia (4, Interesting)

martin (1336) | about 3 months ago | (#46072543)

Oh that explains why all the memorabilia has gone since we visited 5 years ago and last year.

Very sad that this of the park has gone, it really helps the younger ones to see things in context with the work that went on there, seeing real life artifacts such as toys and the scenes from the time.

Also explains why we cant buy 1 ticket at the entrance for both the Park and the Computing museum with Colossus etc inside it.

Again all very sad that they cant get this joined up to work together, moss other places are putting on living history stuff and BP is pulling it all out.

WTF ??? (Re:Loss of memorabilia) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46072599)

I was there in summer 2010. What exactly have the bloody management idiots removed since then ?

Hey techno-libertarians (-1, Flamebait)

benjfowler (239527) | about 3 months ago | (#46072593)

In before NSA.

I know this article is tangentially about intelligence agencies, so I expect the usual crazies to start foaming at the mouth any second now.

Re:Hey techno-libertarians (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46073203)

Bletchley Park: the shrine for GCHQ to masturbate over while watching the public admire the glory days of government cryptology.

When there is free food... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46072621)

the vultures come swooping in.

Let's do our best to keep it as it is ! (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46072623)

I had the chance to visit the park a while ago, along with the computer science museum right next to it and I have to say that I have fond memories of it. It's really interesting and tours are hosted by really passionate people. It's not hip and modern but it goes in depth with every aspect of the life there during the war. They should totally ask for fan support, we should do something to preserve it and help the volunteers make it better without taking it away from the people who always did their best to preserve it, even without any form of recognition.

Re: Let's do our best to keep it as it is ! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46074945)

So when they were desperate for funding in 2008 and in fear of having to close - which was all over the news at the time - how much did you donate to ensure they wouldn't have to go cap-in-hand to the lottery people and the likes of Google? If every Slashdot reader donated £1 a year, none of this would be necessary.

"Modernizing" museums is a blight on the world (5, Insightful)

jcrb (187104) | about 3 months ago | (#46072627)

One of my most favorite museums in the world used to be the Science Museum in London, then I visited it and discovered the steam engine in the entrance doesn't run, the ship model gallery has been sent to storage never to be seen again to be replaced with a gift shop, I couldn't find the working Babbage engine section, in fact basically every display I wanted to see was gone and replaced by junk.

These so called "modernized" displays are nothing better than what you could read online, I want to go to a museum to see *actual* history, not to see a cartoon representation of a simplified version of history that assumes I am a moron.

I think the curators of science/technology museums need to view themselves in the same way as curators of art museums do, their purpose is to display the "art" not to tell me about the art with pretty cartoons after they ship the art to the storage warehouse.

Re:"Modernizing" museums is a blight on the world (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46072713)

The problem is neoliberalism..

You can shoot for culture. You can shoot for kindness. You can shoot for enlightenment. You can shoot for technocracy. But you won't hit any of these marks if your driving force is personal material profit.

This is inevitable.

Re:"Modernizing" museums is a blight on the world (4, Interesting)

umafuckit (2980809) | about 3 months ago | (#46072763)

One of my most favorite museums in the world used to be the Science Museum in London, then I visited it and discovered the steam engine in the entrance doesn't run, the ship model gallery has been sent to storage never to be seen again to be replaced with a gift shop, I couldn't find the working Babbage engine section, in fact basically every display I wanted to see was gone and replaced by junk.

These so called "modernized" displays are nothing better than what you could read online, I want to go to a museum to see *actual* history, not to see a cartoon representation of a simplified version of history that assumes I am a moron.

I get where you're coming from, but don't you think you're being a little harsh? The Babbage difference engine and the steam engine are both there, as I recall. They may not be working, but they're present. Possibly the museum can't afford the maintenance if the exhibit is in motion. That doesn't mean the science isn't on display, though. I know this is why H4 isn't running at the Greenwhich observatory: it would wear out fairly soon if it was allowed to keep running.

Re:"Modernizing" museums is a blight on the world (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46079433)

H1-H3 are kept running, the difference being that H4 requires oiling to keep it going - it is shown working from time to time, though, most recently on the BBC during last year's Doctor Who celebrations. (Yes, really).

Re:"Modernizing" museums is a blight on the world (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46089649)

One of my most favorite museums in the world used to be the Science Museum in London, then I visited it and discovered the steam engine in the entrance doesn't run, the ship model gallery has been sent to storage never to be seen again to be replaced with a gift shop, I couldn't find the working Babbage engine section, in fact basically every display I wanted to see was gone and replaced by junk.

These so called "modernized" displays are nothing better than what you could read online, I want to go to a museum to see *actual* history, not to see a cartoon representation of a simplified version of history that assumes I am a moron.

I get where you're coming from, but don't you think you're being a little harsh? The Babbage difference engine and the steam engine are both there, as I recall. They may not be working, but they're present. Possibly the museum can't afford the maintenance if the exhibit is in motion. That doesn't mean the science isn't on display, though. I know this is why H4 isn't running at the Greenwhich observatory: it would wear out fairly soon if it was allowed to keep running.

Lets not forget that Tony Sale, who rebuilt Colossus, used to be a senior curator at the Science Museum with responsibility for its computing exhibits (such as Babbage).

Also, in an odd quirk, he was secretary of the Bletchley Park Trust when it was first established - precisely the body that is such a deadlocked dispute with TNMOC, where Colossus is exhibited.

Re:"Modernizing" museums is a blight on the world (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46072847)

Similar experience with the Birmingham Science Museum, in my youth it had seemingly acres of operational industrial machinery, mercury arc rectifiers, van-de-graff generators, an operational beam engine, a steam train and Fresnel lighthouse lens (presumably not native to Brum) and countless other such well oiled triumphs of human ingenuity,

They closed it in '97 and replaced it some years later with the shockingly poor substitute that is Think Tank / Millennium point. Basically they scrapped 3/4th of the exhibits, replaced them with much easier and cheaper to curate "social history" (this is still allegedly a science museum) and started charging a small fortune to get in. It really upsets me that the closest my own children will ever get to the sights, sounds and delicious machine oil smells of our true industrial history is the occasional steam rally.

Re:"Modernizing" museums is a blight on the world (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46073869)

I always liked the working electromechanical telephone exchange. They also had a huge press that my father's neighbour operated in a local factory when my father was a lad. He saw it in use a few times before it was donated to the museum.

And yeah, the new museum is shit.

--A Brummie

Re:"Modernizing" museums is a blight on the world (1)

Ford Prefect (8777) | about 3 months ago | (#46077705)

I always liked the working electromechanical telephone exchange.

If you're ever in Seattle, try the Museum of Communications [museumofco...ations.org] . Fairly large old telephone exchange with colossal amounts [flickr.com] of powered-up electromechanical telephone equipment - place a call on a phone and hear it rattling through the machinery until another phone next to you starts to ring. Loads of old teletypes, UNIX boxes and miscellaneous other hardware to look (and often poke) at.

Basically nerd heaven, yet surprisingly few people round here have heard of it. Makes the equivalent display at the London Science Museum look a bit silly.

Re:"Modernizing" museums is a blight on the world (1)

Alioth (221270) | about 3 months ago | (#46079349)

There is a telecommunications museum in the UK with a fairly substantial working Strowger exchange (you'll have to google it, I've not been there and I forget where it is). Also many heritage railways in the UK run their voice telecom network on vintage Strowger gear to be in keeping with their railway.

Re:"Modernizing" museums is a blight on the world (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46072913)

I think it's akin to the aim of making sure every child wins at school. The aim is noble - that nobody is made to feel bad about themselves - but misses the point of struggle and achievement. You can't have a sense of achievement if there's no struggle. You can't win, if you can't lose.

Here the same thing happens - the exhibit must be accessible to all. Everyone can understand it, and there's no struggle, no stretching of the imagination, and thus no inspiration from it. That's the real shame of these changes, things that would have made a child want to be an engineer, or scientist, or mathematician are replaced with things they can understand and get bored with - all in one afternoon.

Oh and it has to be shiny and clean and modern looking too. That's what people want you see.
They don't really want that - they want something interesting and inspirational, but if you can't have that, a touch screen information system, and shiny white floors are the next best thing...

Re: "Modernizing" museums is a blight on the world (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46073033)

The ship models are on one of the upper floors, aren't they? Nowhere near the gift shop.

Re:"Modernizing" museums is a blight on the world (4, Informative)

Hieronymus Howard (215725) | about 3 months ago | (#46073133)

The steam engine at the entrance of the Science Museum does run, but not all of the time. I go to the Science Museum frequently, as I have a 5 year old who love it. I've certainly seen the engine running several times recently.

Re:"Modernizing" museums is a blight on the world (4, Insightful)

hughbar (579555) | about 3 months ago | (#46073359)

So agree. Used to take my son there in the late 1980s, when everything was pretty similar to my childhood. Basically, wonderfully engineered things with handles and buttons. I went recently with my nephews and much of this is gone, gradually replaced by superficial, patronising displays.

Re:"Modernizing" museums is a blight on the world (5, Informative)

xaxa (988988) | about 3 months ago | (#46073521)

Last time I visited the Science Museum there were steam engines running. That was less than a year ago, but I don't think they run every day -- perhaps only at weekends.

The shipping gallery is available online: http://www.sciencemuseum.org.u... [sciencemuseum.org.uk] -- I don't know what is now in that location (or if it's ready yet). It's certainly not a gift shop, as that's on a different floor.

The Babbage difference engine model is in the Computing section, on the 2nd floor: http://www.sciencemuseum.org.u... [sciencemuseum.org.uk]

Perhaps you should have asked for a map?

(The museum is free, funded from tax and donations. The Deparment for Culture, Media and Sport is facing big cuts from the current government, and all the tax-funded museums are being told to cut costs as much as they can, and generate as much income as they can. I don't like this, but there's not much I can do about it.)

Re:"Modernizing" museums is a blight on the world (1)

Ford Prefect (8777) | about 3 months ago | (#46077745)

The Babbage difference engine model is in the Computing section, on the 2nd floor

Definitely still there when I visited in early December last year - loads of Babbage stuff, in fact. Including his brain in a jar!

(The museum did feel kind of tired and empty compared with how I remembered it, sadly - and the Wellcome collection stuff didn't seem nearly as grisly as I thought it was as a ten-year-old. They've got some fancy new galleries at one end, but it's more of the raising-questions public-oriented kind of display rather than the dusty old real exhibits I've really come to appreciate. I did get a bit spoiled [flickr.com] by the two branches of the Museum of Flight in Washington DC about a year ago, however. Blimey. Spaaaaaace!)

Re:"Modernizing" museums is a blight on the world (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46079311)

Since University in 1992 I have been going to the science museum 4-5 times a year..

In that time they have closed;

1) food technology ( boarded off and not re-opened )
2) Nuclear Power and power generation ( replaced with a large empty space for coffee )
3) Gas and Unitities ( replaced with a wishy washy temp display )
4) Slimmed down farming to a shell
5) slimmed down half the Space gallery ( the right hand side gallery and above )
6) got rid of retail and shops ( boarded off and scheduled to re-open in 2005 :0) )
7) Shut down themordynamics on the top floor and replaced it with a couple of shops, a large open space and the re-vamped launch pad
8) slimmed down telecomunications ( closed a couple of galleries and turned it into a scoial science temp display )
9) got rid of the buttons room with all the ships and steam engines ( big shame )
10) removed the ships engines and tripple expansion display
11) removed half the entrance hall displays and replaced them by a MASSIVE disabled ramp 16 time bigger than needed and a couple shops
12) half of the Welcome wing looks empty ( VERY POOR USE OF SPACE )

let me say no more... Dumbing down or poor curation ?

Re:"Modernizing" museums is a blight on the world (1)

jcrb (187104) | about 3 months ago | (#46084917)

Since University in 1992 I have been going to the science museum 4-5 times a year..

In that time they have closed;

......

let me say no more... Dumbing down or poor curation ?

Yes?

Assault on free speech. (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46072755)

The original story was here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-25886961 It has since been removed without any explanation given.

Knowing a lot of the story behind... I consider this an assault on free-speech.

Also, for those who are interested, might give an explanation on why the BBC chickened out: www.bletchleypark.org.uk/content/about/bptrust.rhtm

Re:Assault on free speech. (1)

ebenupton (2424660) | about 3 months ago | (#46073571)

I grabbed a screenshot before it disappeared:

http://www.gastronomydomine.co... [gastronomydomine.com]

Would be interesting to know why it was pulled.

Re:Assault on free speech. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46077621)

The Internet Archive grabbed the page, but I don't think the video was preserved (Iassume not):
http://wayback.archive.org/web... [archive.org]
(Ican't get any of the BBC's videos to appear for me, so Ihave no way of telling for sure either way.)

In case it won't show up for you (it only did for me for a split-second) it did save an image from the video:
http://wayback.archive.org/web... [archive.org]

Stuff gone missing (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46072781)

Before we emigrated, I gave a volunteer from Bletchley quite a large amount of older computers and software which were supposedly of interest. This included documentation for one of the world's first tablet computers [hembrow.eu] and other prototype hardware and software. Sadly, I think it all vanished soon after I donated it. I should have kept all that stuff myself...

Re:Stuff gone missing (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46072991)

Ditto, I thought I was the only one. In my case it was only a couple of rare(ish) operational machines(20 left)+software+spares, but I've never seen them listed anywhere since.
(Machine types left undescribed as , as I'm not wanting an easy identification here, look at the wonks in the picture lurking at www.bletchleypark.org.uk/content/about/bptrust.rhtm pointed to above, I want to have a job in future..)

A few facts, since people don't seem to know them. (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46072887)

The historical site is owned by a charity, whose trustees are unpaid, and will be making nothing from the changes. The grant and associated fundraising were for a specific modernisation plan that's been available to interested parties for years: the trustees wouldn't be allowed to do anything substantially different with the money. The computer museum is run by a different charity, which rents space from the historical charity: lost donations have nothing to do with the Bletchley charity.

news for nerds (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46072911)

This being news for nerds is really far fetched, IMO.
I know they added "intelligence work" to make it about computers and such, but still.
This seems more like a story for a general news website to me.

Re:news for nerds (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46072993)

assuming your just painfully ignorant and not trolling:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colossus_computer

Re:news for nerds (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46073645)

Thanks. I wasn't trolling. The Slashdot summary linked to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bletchley_Park which tells me it's an estate located in the town of Bletchley. I thought it was just a location where intelligence work was carried out. The summary could've mentioned the Colossus computer; not everyone knows the Bletchley Park is related to it.

Re: news for nerds (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46073737)

If you don't know that, you're not a nerd and shouldn't be here anyway.

Re: news for nerds (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46073777)

Not everyone knows everything about everything.

Re: news for nerds (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46075827)

Sure. You're still not a nerd though if you don't know precisely this.

Re:news for nerds (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46076801)

Then what the fuck makes you think you're qualified to say whether something is news for nerds when you didn't even know that Bletchley Park was where bloody Alan Turing did his work cracking the German Enigma codes using the world's first electronic computing machines? It was the birthplace of the electronic computer, where the man who pioneered the notion of computing and computability did his most important work!

Living History vs Disney World (2)

plopez (54068) | about 3 months ago | (#46073159)

That it seems to be the case. Those that want it to stay as authentic as possible, I am in that camp, as opposed to those who want to install things like the"U-Boat Water Ride". Yes it is a dump. It was a dump in WWII and so should stay that way.

Not another Stonehenge (2)

BestNicksRTaken (582194) | about 3 months ago | (#46073221)

Please don't make it like Stonehenge where you can't even get to it without going through the giftshop, and then you can't actually get anywhere near it.

I expect they'll Disney-fy it and rename it Bletchley Theme Park, jees do the Nation Trust just play Angry Birds all day?

Re:Not another Stonehenge (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46073705)

jees do the Nation Trust just play Angry Birds all day?

No, that would be the RSPB [rspb.org.uk] .

Re:Not another Stonehenge (1)

Xest (935314) | about 3 months ago | (#46078917)

I remember being able to just walk upto the place and jump around on the stones at Stonehenge as a kid, and okay, maybe that was a bit wrong given it's significance but this seizure and commercialisation of history and culture by people that simply have no right of ownership of it is sickening.

I'm pretty sure the folks who built Stonehenge would be a bit fucked off to hear about the commercialisation of it, I'm pretty sure they didn't build it so a select few people could profit off of it in the future.

All seems a bit suspect to me. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46073245)

I smell a rat. The original BBC report is no longer on their website - it went out on Friday's 6pm news but they've pulled it from their website, so there is clearly something very wrong with it.
The linked report is to a youtube user who is impersonating the BBC, it's not a real BBC account.
Alarm bells are going off here.

Re:All seems a bit suspect to me. (1)

madprof (4723) | about 3 months ago | (#46075171)

This is a real BBC report. They were filming in the real Bletchley Park. That's definitely the real Jeremy Cooke.

Re: All seems a bit suspect to me. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46080943)

It is definitely the same report: I visited Bletchley Park and TNMOC by chance on Friday and experienced a strange mood there then heard/viewedthe BBC reports the same evening, noticed someone had already loaded them to Youtube and noted also the following day that the BBC had taken the video down but not before it has been cascaded internationally. The Youtube video is entirely the same one. Watch it! Having read lots of tweets and other reports about what is going on it would seem that in future Bletchley promises to be like Berlin during the Cold War, divided into east (TNMOC with Colossus etc) and west, the vintage 1940s upgraded for visitor interpretation 21st c style. Iain Standen claims his first love was battlefields (see interviews on his appointment) and now he has made his very own!

Museum life cycle? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46073263)

Museums may have life cycles of their own, and this type of conflict may be part of it.

The Boston Computer Museum shipped off all it's cool historical artifacts to become a kids educational playhouse.

Then the Computer History Museum in Silicon Valley updated its exhibits to make them more accessible and aesthetically pleasing to the general public, perhaps driving away several of its earliest volunteers in the process, especially the ones who loved the historical artifacts more than the vetted "show".

Hopefully Bletchley can stick to its roots, and keep the people who care more about its history than about running generic museums.

Reminds me of the California Academy of Sciences (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46073605)

The Academy had to move into a new location, and took that opportunity to modernize their exhibits.

What was left was completely devoid of educational value and science. Everything is hip, tech-savvy snippets of information, quick bites of facts with nothing to really learn from. The entire thing is bent towards commercialism and sales in their gift shop. It was retooled to appeal to people with no attention span, who can't read more than a paragraph without losing interest. Also factor in that the new location is incredibly small compared to the old one, all the exhibits are smaller, and admission costs much more.

As somebody who visited the Academy regularly as a child well into adulthood, I had always looked forward to taking my kids there. Now there's no point. Sounds like the same kind of thinking is going into Bletchley Park.

much adoo about nuthin (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46073783)

sounds like a good community investment, smarten things up a bit, make somewhere for people to sit outside and take it in, drink a spot of tea, you know make a fucking day of it with the kids and a learn a bit of historical culture while iam there, maybe even EMPLOY people to show us round.

fuck

Re:much adoo about nuthin (1)

hey! (33014) | about 3 months ago | (#46075185)

Well, the issue seems to be that they don't want to share their visitors with the computing museum next door which has important exhibits relating to the work at Bletchley Park. That seems awfully petty.

Bletchley Park (1)

CouerD'Leon (3513755) | about 3 months ago | (#46074021)

Am presently solely a U.S. national ( though that will change ) , so it's not my affair to mind what the Brits do with their Historical Landmarks. Still, as Democracy traveled from Greece to Rome to England before emigrating to the USA..,I've always been fascinated by English History. It's a shame, even deplorable, the Govt. of the U.K. is so diffident to it's own History they'd not protect such an important Historical landmark allowing it to instead fall into private ownership. Being a detective, the 1st impression I got was that this stinks of the same rigged game the Banksters plied on Greece.( Am not saying it actualy is; only an apparent parallel may exist.) [Wall St investment Banksters bribed Greek public officials to get them in their pocket, have them advocate unrepayable loans funded by worthless unbacked fiat script so the indebted would default. The Banksters didn't want their worthless Monopoly parlor game script back.. They wanted to deed private ownership of Greek public treasures like the Acropolis used as collateral for the intentionaly bad loans to Billionaire investors. We have the same problem here in the USA. A Colorado mining town so Historicly important it was used as a stage set for a John Wayne movie was sold to one of the Koch Bros, closing it off to the public. Am not casting aspersions on Mr.Koch, Brittish way of doing things, rather it's the system that stinks.] Did you know the code breakers at Bletchley park changed the entire course of World History ? The English are very bright people. (Takes one to know one.) They cracked the Japanese cypher, knew of the imminent attack on Pearl Harbor looong before the U.S.military did. U.K. was fighting the Germans, Italians, Japanese throughout their Empire years before the USA entered the war, was in dire straights. Food convoys were sunk so often the entire populace was in imminent danger of starving to death. Can you immage being regulated to take a bath in 4 rationed inches of water ??? Hitler's terror weapons. Stuka's, V1 buzz bomb mass murdered so many civilians, created such devastating Arson that firefighters worked in round the clock shifts after each concerted attack. Churchill was forced to allow a Brittish city to be annihilated to protect the secret that Bletchley Park had already cracked the German enigma code. That's how desperate they were to survive. We here in the USA have always been the conquerers. Like the Gary Cooper movie ending with the quote by William Penn, we've never known what it is to be defeated unlike Island nations that are always invaded. Until the USA entered the war, both Allies captured German enigma cypher machines, Navaho Wind talkers made unbreakable code, the tide was turning in favor of Fascism. At least 1 movie set was produced around Bletchley Park. Pity people don't understand the maxim that those who fail to learn the lessons of History will always be doomed to repeat it's mistakes. The Greeks do though. They have a legend as part of their lore that fits the human condition. Sysiphus offended the Gods, went to Tartarus, Hades cursed him to roll a boulder up a hill for eternity. The Gods calculated he'd have only enough energy to roll the boulder near the top, never up to and over to the other side., That he'd eventualy slip, and fall back to his starting point always wasting his time & energy. If you're sharp enough to read between the lines, there's an important lesson to be learned from that legend: History is the collective memory of humankind. Memory is mind. Without conscious, collective mind to avoid repeating past mistakes, human existence will never break the chains of the Slavery it's imposed upon itself. That's how I see it. As they say on the History channel. History..., we make it every day.

Re: Bletchley Park (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46078889)

The UK government has responded to calls to help save the Park, provided help & finance.

Newsify (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46074041)

I love the way the beeb report (and so many of my esteemed fellow slashdotters) want to simplify the sitution down to idiot level, and draw highly emotional conclusions from it. Soundbite Society.

The situation at Bletchley is horrifically complex, as several other posters have alluded to. The site itself is owned by one party, operated by another, who sub-let part of it to another (the museum of computing). There are also contracts with companies Science and Innovation, who are responsible for letting unused areas to companies as office space or production rooms: this is an important source of revenue for the park itself, and requires some of the site to be modernised to allow better access, power supply, security etc etc. This has generally been done in a sensitive way, keeping a lot of the modernisation hidden from the general public.

Every decision at bletchley involves a number of differing or opposing parties with equal or close weighting. PositIve decision making is almost impossible, and getting stuff done has involved winning favours, political negotiation and luck. All the while the place falls down around everyones ears. The new management seem to be in a position to be a 'new broom' sweeping aside a lot of the nonsense: there are parties at BP that would watch it fall into ruin as they stubbornly insist on changing nothing. Equally the lottery plan is aggressive, and does indeed take away some of the fantastic bits of bletchley: the tour guides are an exceptional feature, and replacing them with the electronic tours is a real loss. However, the place needs money to stay open, to be self sustaining. The best way to achieve that is to become more 'family friendly'. It's a great experience for grown ups, but a horrific ordeal for anyone under the age of 16: some of it is just too stuffy. I wish they had been able to find some way of keeping the Model railway, and the Churchill Exhibit - I think they could both have been accomodated in outlying buildings. The Churchill Exhibit drew a surprising number of people (despite being a little dry) and really isn't so far removed from the core WWII message. Justifying the railway is somewhat harder. Creating more accessible exhibits is key to a younger audience, though, as is modernising some of the buildings. Generally the refurb seems inline with previous works, which were done intelligently and sensitively. The visitors centre is the 'all new store front' that the place deserately needs: having to be shown where the front door is by a man in a high vis is just ridiculous.

As always, it's a case of getting the balance right: the old-guard resist change and the new broom wants to change too much. Hopefully the result of the battle falls somewhere in the midground - I don't think too much needs to be trimmed away to bring things up to date. Let's hope the new vision/message isn't overly simplified.

The need for dumbing down (2)

Animats (122034) | about 3 months ago | (#46074351)

I visited Bletchley Park in 2002, when it was an all-volunteer operation with limited funding. It was great seeing the bombe rebuild, the unfinished Colossus rebuild, a Lorenz crypto machine, and a working Enigma. But I knew about all those machines and what Bletchley Park had done. For people who hadn't done the reading, it wasn't much of an experience. The guide was more into the architecture of the manor house than the crypto anyway. There were maybe 20 visitors on the grounds when I was there.

The Science Museum in London has been dumbed down. I saw it in 1985 and 2002. The big thing in 2002 was the Aston-Martin from an early James Bond movie. Some of the railroad equipment had been moved out. But they still had Maudsley's lathe, which looks amazingly like a modern lathe, but complely different than any lathe before it.

Re: The need for dumbing down (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46078897)

BP is more than Mansion architecture, quirky as it is. There has been some dumbing down, a declared intention by management to 'keep it simple'.

Re:The need for dumbing down (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46089713)

Well, the story behind the Lorenz SZ42 is a case in point. Colossus was designed specifically to crack the SZ42 cipher - so there is an intimate link between the two. But the SZ42 is still owned by GCHQ, and the custodianship is listed as being the BP CEO. So at the moment, the SZ42 has been removed from the National Museum of Computing's display cabinet, and is kept locked up on the main site, and inaccessible to TNMOC

By the way, I know a bit about the SZ42 and how it all fits in with the Colossus story - I restored it to full functionality in the early 2000's. There are only two complete SZ42's - one at the NSA in Maryland, and one at BP. And the BP one is the only one in the world that is completely restored and working. In a locked cabinet and not on display.

Don't whine - act ! (1)

slincolne (1111555) | about 3 months ago | (#46075021)

They have a contact page available at http://www.bletchleypark.org.u... [bletchleypark.org.uk] - tell them what you think yourself

Bletchley Park is a ruin (1)

kriston (7886) | about 3 months ago | (#46077851)

I visited part of Bletchley Park in the late 2000s and it was a ruin. The guard at the gate house said they are very much in need of money. The buildings were falling down.

Sure, it is a site of historical importance, but even the Enigma-cracking computers like the esteemed Alan Turing's bombe were dismantled and scrapped decades ago, and the hundreds of subsequent generations which won the war of the Atlantic are all over the world in both their original form, as replicas, and as computer emulations.

Re: Bletchley Park is a ruin (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46078911)

What BP always needed was money. Now they have money, all that is needed is a vision on how to spend it wisely, beyond Hut restoration. I highly recommend a BP visit but do ask where the money goes. The guides have to stick to the Politburo line though. There is a threat of (well, watch that BBC report) if thing is said contrary to policy.

BLETCHLEY PARK GUIDE SACKED (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46078417)

WHY did the BBC "pull" the news story immediately, could they have be "persuaded" to pull the story by MI5 ?

BBC News Report has been reinstated (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46081349)

The twists in this story are like a Cold War thriller. Why was it taken down and why now reinstated?

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-25916048

Proves it was a real story....the journalist just happened to be there same day a volunteer guide was summarily dismissed. Bletchley Park management have tried hard to contain this story but there are some really big issues at stake: why use getting National Heritage Lottery money and considerable private sector support to justify building gates between different and connected parts of this site's history? It is disingenuous to use terms of the grant to win a turf war...this situation calls for diplomacy and honesty.....

Re:BBC News Report has been reinstated (1)

ebenupton (2424660) | about 3 months ago | (#46082943)

They have edited out a single black and white photograph from the original cut. Compare the first thirty seconds from the two versions:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-2... [bbc.co.uk]
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v... [youtube.com]

I wonder who asserted a copyright claim on a grainy seventy year old photograph to get this taken offline?

Re: BBC News Report has been reinstated (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46087263)

Someone should do a longer investigative report on The Battle for Bletchley: who dares wins! The attempt to get the story removed has backfired but the BP management probably gambled on quelling a media storm before it really grew. Their statement tried to focus on how brief the story was. What seems to be at stake now is confidence in the Chief Executive whose heavy handedness was laid out bare on camera. The poor old volunteers are stuck in the middle. What a shambles.

Re: BBC News Report has been reinstated (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46129229)

Someone I know complained to the BBC and they said that the disappearance of this story was an accident. I've no idea whether that's true, but it seems suspicious. Anyway, as others have said, they have restored it. The Bletchley Park trust don't like the story and complain that it is inaccurate, but anyone who watches the video clip can see the arrogance of their Chief Executive, and the Trust's recent press releases are full of bullshit and platitutdes, while not addressing any of the issues. Also I came across what appears to be an impartial and very informative account of the dispute by an independent journalist called Gareth Halfacree, which I strongly recommend: http://freelance.halfacree.co.... [halfacree.co.uk]
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