Global funding to benefit The National Museum of Computing

By 24 Hour Museum Staff | 09 September 2008
A photograph of old-fashioned air traffic control terminals

Image - Keeping the museum flying - funding will help preserve the history of computing innovation. Courtesy National Museum of Computing at Bletchley Park

The National Museum of Computing (NMC) is celebrating the promise of support from two of the world’s largest computer companies.

IBM, famous for their involvement in the development of the personal computer, and global email and data encryption software company PGP have pledged funds to help expand and modernise the museum and enhance the educational opportunities it offers.

On the same site as Bletchley Park, home to World War II code breaking history and the Enigma machine, NMC is like Bletchley itself, in urgent need of funding and has been trying to raise sufficient capital to ensure its long-term survival.

Kelsey Griffiths, Events and Publicity manager at Bletchley Park Trust said: “Although we are a separate trust and have our own separate fundraising strategies from the NMC, for visitors to Bletchley, it’s all part of the same experience. Such donations to the museum can only benefit the Bletchley Park Trust as well."

The museum’s aim is to provide the public with an expanded history of computing from the point when Bletchley ceased to be the home to groundbreaking computer pioneers such as Alan Turing.

A photograph of an old computer as large as a room

Image - Size mattered - Colossus was the first programmable electronic computer. Courtesy the National Museum of Computing at Bletchley Park

UK Security and Privacy Services Leader at IBM, Andrew Hart, commented on the impact the museum can have on understanding the history of computing: “The collection at the museum brings to life the origins of much of what we depend upon in modern life today. Letting future generations experience this can only fuel interest and maybe encourage visitors to take up a career in technology.”

John Fell from NMC said: “It’s fantastic to see companies like IBM and PGP Corporation helping our cause and rallying behind our campaign to raise funds. If we can secure the funding, the National Museum of Computing can become a major historical and educational resource providing access to unique and irreplaceable materials.”

As well as welcoming large corporate donations, the NMC has also set up a website to facilitate the collection of donations and to garner support for their plans for the future from the technical community worldwide.

In complementing the Bletchley story, the museum contains the largest collection of post-World War II functional historic computers in Europe. As well as Colossus, the world’s first programmable electronic computer, NMC also displays mainframes from the 1960s and 1970s and personal computers from the 1980s. The air traffic control system once used at West Drayton is now housed at the museum.

A photograph of early personal computers

Image - Not a laptop in sight - the museum demonstrates how personal computing has moved on. Courtesy the National Museum of Computing at Bletchley Park

Bletchley Park itself was highlighted as an urgent conservation issue recently when 100 academics, led by Dr Sue Black, head of computer science at the University of Westminster, wrote to the Times in July describing the lack of funding for Bletchley as ‘neglect’ of world Heritage.

The Bletchley mansion alone needs over £1 million spent on repairs and many of the historic huts in the grounds, where scientists, mathematicians and others in Bletchley’s 8,500 wartime work force once worked, are falling down.

PGP’s CEO and President, Phil Dunkelberger, supported this idea that those working in computing can contribute to preserving not only the collections at the NMC but Bletchley itself.

He said: “As the acknowledged birthplace of modern computing, Bletchley Park is responsible for laying the foundation for many of today’s technology innovations. We believe more can be done to preserve this institution and those of us in the technology industry can do more to help.”

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