The bigger picture: fragmenting a heritage site

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A response by TNMOC Trustees to the Bletchley Park Trust statement dated 29 January 2014.
It is a follow-up to the TNMOC statement of 27 January 2014.

Fragmentation of the Bletchley Park heritage site

Unsightly gates and fencing are now being erected by the Bletchley Park Trust, thereby fragmenting the heritage site and isolating historic Block H which is the home of Colossus, the world's first purpose-built computer centre and now home to The National Museum of Computing.

The BPT claim to be "erecting a fence and gates around the heritage aspect of the Bletchley Park site" is clearly misleading. Historic Block H, a Listed building, is to be outside the area being gated and fenced off.

The National Museum of Computing strongly believes that the Colossus Rebuild should be interpreted as an integral part of the Bletchley Park story. In fact this was stated in part of BPT's successful Heritage Lottery Bid (HLF) -- a document which was not seen by TNMOC until long after it had been announced as being successful. (TNMOC receives no HLF funding.)

We owe it to the men and women who worked at Bletchley Park during the war and to those who have helped save Bletchley Park since the 1990s to play our part in telling the full code-breaking story.

Unfortunately, BPT have told us that they will not negotiate until recently-agreed debts are paid, even though a timetable for payment has already been agreed.

The Bletchley Park site as a whole is a major tool to help educate young people. We should together be celebrating this history and the development of the British computing industry rather than erecting fences and splitting a heritage site.

We want to honour the past and inspire future generations.

Signposting of the Colossus Rebuild and TNMOC

Although BPT says its visitors are "encouraged" to visit the Colossus Rebuild and TNMOC, evidence suggests otherwise.

Many visitors no longer see what is a highpoint of Bletchley Park. A Bletchley Park visit without seeing the Colossus Rebuild is, as the highly respected journalist Jack Schofield wrote this week, "like staging Hamlet without the prince".

Statistics clearly show that numbers of people visiting the Colossus Rebuild have dropped very substantially in the past year and this is a direct result of BPT actions.

Signage to the Colossus Rebuild and Block H from the BPT site is very poor according to many visitors who do actually make their way to Block H.

Even at the most relevant part of the BPT display where Colossus is mentioned, there is no indication that the Colossus Rebuild is a short distance away.

The Single Ticketing negotiations

For many years The National Museum of Computing (TNMOC) asked the Bletchley Park Trust (BPT) if it would contribute to TNMOC's costs for displaying the Colossus Rebuild, one of the top attractions on Bletchley Park. The best that was ever offered was a rent holiday which of course would have to be paid in due course. (The rent is £75,000 per year plus utilities amounting to a total of more than £100,000 per year.)

In 2011 TNMOC proposed a mechanism for it to be financially recompensed for enabling the many thousands of BPT visitors to see the Colossus Rebuild as part of their BPT entrance fee. The Bletchley Park Trust rejected the proposal out of hand and so TNMOC introduced its charges.

BPT then introduced its own proposal about single-ticketing, but in doing so tried to include a condition which implicitly questioned the ownership of the Colossus Rebuild. This was of course unacceptable to TNMOC. Negotiations eventually failed and Colossus ticket sellers were told to leave the BPT ticketing area.

About The National Museum of Computing

The National Museum of Computing, located on Bletchley Park, is an independent charity housing the world's largest collection of functional historic computers, including the rebuilt Colossus, the world’s first electronic computer, and the WITCH, the world's oldest working digital computer. The Museum enables visitors to follow the development of computing from the ultra-secret pioneering efforts of the 1940s through the large systems and mainframes of the 1950s, 60s and 70s, and the rise of personal computing in the 1980s and beyond.

A recent pledge by an individual benefactor of £1 million if matched funding is found means that every pound or dollar donated to the Museum will count double. Previous funders of the Museum have included Bletchley Park Capital Partners, CreateOnline, Ceravision, InsightSoftware.com, Google UK, PGP Corporation, IBM, NPL, HP Labs, BCS, and 4Links.

The whole Museum is currently open to the public on Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays from 12 noon, spring and summer Bank Holidays and increasingly during school holidays. Colossus and Tunny galleries are open almost every day. Guided tours are available at 2.30pm on Tuesdays. There are often additional opening times for the public -- see the website or the iPhone app for updates. Educational and corporate groups are very welcome and may be on any day or evening by prior arrangement.

For more information, see www.tnmoc.org and follow @tnmoc on Twitter and The National Museum of Computing on Facebook and Google+. A TNMOC iPhone App is also now available from the iPhone App Store.

Media Contacts
Stephen Fleming
Palam Communications
t +44 (0) 1635 299116
e s.fleming@palam.co.uk

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