Says it all really
New tours of the facility have now started which take just one hour, rather than 90 minutes, to help pack even more tourists in.
Bletchley Park is planning to replace its volunteer tour guides with actors in a bid to turn the historical attraction into a "geeky Disneyland", The Register has learned. A number of people contacted The Reg after we wrote about the Bletchley Park Trust's decision to sack a pensioner after he showed visitors around the …
Yesterday Iain Standen phoned me back after I called to complain about the fracas. He told me that the tours had been standardised and that 90 minutes was too long for visitors.
I said that visitors should be given the choice.
He seemed to know of the discussion on El Reg; I said that he should contact them to give his side of the story.
He told me that the tours had been standardised and that 90 minutes was too long for visitors.
He really is a complete pillock.
I've done the tour twice and on both occasions it felt about right for length. A lot of the most interesting stuff is the result of having time to talk to the guides and for them to be able to follow up interesting questions with extra details that aren't part of the standard talk.
Providing the tour isn't compulsory they can make it as short as they like.
I showed myself round and found a member of staff to ask whenever I wanted to know something. They were all without exception knowledgeable and approachable. I also had a long chat with the owner of the Churchill collection.
Seems a shame that this corporate suit is determined to ruin everything.
To be true, Poland is a country that grows, shrinks, disappears, then reappears, then is forcefully visited by funky Trotsky and his Red Army, then stabilizes, then disappears in a double-sided hostile takeover, then is sold for by FDR to jovial Russians for a presidential election win, then reappears in modified form shifted to the left on the map, then unsovietizes only to be europized later.
It is hard to honour national heroes while doing this kind of electric boogaloo.
My father worked on the Polish coding machine. As a young apprentice draughtsman, he was given the job of preparing engineering drawings based on one of the first machines smuggled out of Poland. The work was done in top secret with an armed guard permanently at the door. He had to hand all materials and documents to the guard when he left the room and he was told he would be put up against a wall and shot if he ever mentioned what he saw in that room. Even in the 1990's he was nervous about telling me about it. He described it as looking like a small typewriter with some numbered wheels on it.
Because of this job, and what he had seen in that room, he was forbidden from doing active service in the forces overseas afterwards, due to the risk of capture (although he did his share of air raid duty in London)
I look forward to them telling the story of how the Americans cracked the Enigma code.
Could try the approach taken by the Deutches Museum in Munich (well at least was the case ~20 years ago) in their "History of Computing" section where there was a single panel on Alan Turing describing how he'd contributed to the development of computing while working on some unspecified project during the period 1940-45. Then the exhibition returned to the story of the German invention of computing.
Which is actually true. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Konrad_Zuse
Cracking Enigma was a huge achievement, but the hardware used was not a general-purpose computer. Turing's other contributions of genius were to the mathematics of computing and computability. He wasn't an engineer.
Blimey, that's a bit swift. I've been on the Bletchley Park tour a few times and found it perfectly paced at 90 minutes. Mind you, if they're not taking in the Tunny/Colossus exhibit in the National Museum of Computing then that will save some time - pointlessy, stupidly and inadvisedly, but it will save some time.
The decisions being taken by the Bletchley Park Trust seem bent on ripping apart two collections that really do have synergy - the one time that word does have a place in describing in how a place should be run and management are running away from it.
A damn good idea. And perhaps a popular public figure with a very large twitter following and an interest in history, gay rights and technology could be recruited to raise awareness of this campaign amongst the general population?
Oh wait, Mr Orlowski has other ideas. http://www.theregister.co.uk/2014/01/28/stephen_fry_says_kildall_was_cracked/
Another reason is that he's done an introduction to the 'multimedia visitors guide'.
I suspect that the ultimate aim is to dispense with the warm bodies and use gadgets instead.
The Register picks a saturday and published it to it's readership.
The Register designs a NMOC 'flag' for people to print
On said saturday the readership does it's damnest to attend TNMOC, not BPT, with printed flags,
When leaving the TNMOC people leave their flags with a personal note on the back.
There is no profit, aside from a point being made perhaps.
Computer people of the world unite!!!
Joking aside, something has to be done. I was that pissed off with what I read yesterday I paid £50 to TNMOC (and Gift Aid of course) to become a member. Bletchley won't get a single penny of my money ever again until they stop what they are doing.
As a trust and a registered charity, the power to change this lies with the trustees does it not ?
The list is here:
It would be interesting to hear what some of them have to say about all this (El Reg....)
The CEO should only be implementing their wishes. So, Standen being an arsehole* aside, what he is doing is surely what the trustees have asked him to do.
*how did he get to CEO ? Even his bio on the site seems to suggest he was in the army, then here - totally unqualified for a role like this.
I agree that he doesn't seem to have a very good idea of how to run Bletchley Park. However, his bio actually says the complete opposite to what you say - he's ex-Signals, working in intelligence and signals, which is a direct descendant of the wartime work of Bletchley Park. He's also, since he left the Army, worked in battlefield history and tours, so he also apparently has an interest in history and communicating it to others.
That does seem at odds with the Disneyfication of Bletchley, but there's no accounting for one person's ideas on how to do something.
>I agree that he doesn't seem to have a very good idea of how to run Bletchley Park. However, his bio >actually says the complete opposite to what you say - he's ex-Signals, working in intelligence and >signals, which is a direct descendant of the wartime work of Bletchley Park. He's also, since he left >the Army, worked in battlefield history and tours, so he also apparently has an interest in history and >communicating it to others.
I know what you are saying - but being in the same sector is hardly the most important pre-req for a CEO - it's senior management experience, previous CEO experience, experience on other boards, etc.
His bio says he was an officer in the army, and then a tour guide... not someone I'd have employed to run a company.
stu 4: I agree. Iain Standen is probably a typical "Rupert", a product of the British Army officer corps where the old school tie are what matters, and the lower ranks are there to be bossed around. As for Signals, they had bugger all to do with wartime Bletchley Park, where much of the key personnel were on secondment from academia and organisations such as the General Post Office.
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"As for Signals, they had bugger all to do with wartime Bletchley Park, where much of the key personnel were on secondment from academia and organisations such as the General Post Office."
Nonsense. The Royal Corps of Signals, as the Army's specialist Signal organisation, was closely involved with Bletchley Park, and especially the intercept stations - the "Y" Service - during WW2.
A quick glance through the published works on the subject would reveal that.
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but wasn't the invention of the programmable computer an invention that just maybe has a smidjin more of an impact of the modern world?
Definitely, although it was invented by Konrad Zuse in Germany before the war! Colossus came second, or maybe third if you believe the Yanks. Or even fourth, if you accept Babbage's mechanical engine as the first programmable computer.
Also don't under-estimate the input of genius physicists: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_transistor. If we still had to use thermionic valves there might be less than a thousand computers in the world. If we still had to use bipolar transistors there might be less than a million. Oddly, the FET was discovered first, though CMOS arrived quite late and was the enabling technology for Moore's law.
you went and fucked it all up there right at the end. Moore's law is demonstrably bollocks and promotes a world view that is.... unhelpful, as acknowledged by the great man himself.
It's not how laws work, and it's not even how the development of IC's works. It was, kinda, for a while.
Though fair play I had never heard of Zuse.
That will teach me for getting all up on my high horse when merkins mention eniac.
(well it won't! but you know what i mean)
and I thought ECL was shoe horned in there in the early days to keep reality on the Moore's curve :-)
you went and fucked it all up there right at the end. Moore's law is demonstrably bollocks and promotes a world view that is.... unhelpful, as acknowledged by the great man himself.
Sorry but you are completely wrong. From a physicist's or engineer's perspective, it's a scaling law, that predicted (back in the 1980s) that there was absolutely nothing fundamental in the way of going from the earliest CMOS computers with a few tens of thousands of transistors running at a few MHz up to today's billion-transistor chips clocked at a few GHz. It also predicted where the law would inevitably fail (ie run out of predictive power). That's where we are today. It's because the transistors have to be made out of discrete atoms and the thickness of a gate is now as thin (as few atoms) as it can be while remaining an insulator.
Back in the days of bipolar transistors, a bit was represented as a flow of current and engineers faced what they called a "smoking hairy golfball" problem. You had to put the components sufficiently far apart so you could keep them cool, which restricted the clock speed because of the speed of light. Shrink it too much and you can't stop it catching fire (aided by the fact that bipolar transistors suffer thermal runaway).
CMOS, on the other hand, scales so that energy is dissipated only when a logic element changes state, and the heat generated per unit area of active electronics is a constant as you shrink the transistors, shrink the operating voltage, and scale up the clock speed, all by the same factor.
Agreed, Moore's law is now historical and no longer predictive. (the entire context of this thread is history!) We've now pretty much reached the physical limits for the smallness of a transistor, and any future improvements in CPU performance will have to come from using the billion or so transistors on a chip more intelligently.
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There was some discussion on another (punctuation based) tech news site the other day about how the BBC had mysteriously pulled this story (which had thankfully been mirrored to youtube) only to re-instate it a few days later subtly altered. There was also some suggestion that Bletchley parks board of directors (which reads like a VIP guest list) may have had something to do with this.
Not party to any of the politics, just know El Reg loves a good conspiracy theory.
Someone commented yesterday that the "subtle alteration" was to remove a "copyrihg image" from the start of the clip. I assume the process went along the lines of
BPT1: "The BBC are making that clip available on their newsite and its pretty embarrasing for us - what can we do about it?"
BPT2: "Well, see that picture at the start, that's something we own the copyright to so we can asked them to take the clip down on copyrihgt infingement grounds" <rings BBC>
BBC: "Ok, you got us bang to rights guv, well take the clip down" <takes clip down, gets out video editor and removes image, puts clip back up again>
BPT1&2: "and that just makes us look even worse" <facepalm>
I do understand the cost to keep it open, even with volunteers......But this is wrong, I actually used to work as an actor in a fish museum (year I know right) but the thing that amazed me about that role was summed up in this article, and seemingly I think it applies to any niche historical museum.
"namely a British quirkiness arising from an extensive range of exhibits manned by volunteers who knew their stuff and were happy to share it."
This was the case when I visited Bletchley the first time, I had an hour long conversation about valves and how they work. The chap also gave me an up close tour of the machine room because I had an enthusiasm that he liked. What actor would do that?
Couldn't agree more - have you been to the Science museum in London recently? It's all "interactive exhibits" and touch screens now and it seems they want to take Bletchley Park down that same path. I've been twice, and the first time I was fortunate enough to spend a good ten minutes chatting with Tony Sale which was just an amazing experience. He told me all about how when he was building the colossus replica he would get tipped off about old analogue telephone exchanges being decommissioned, and he and his mates would turn up there and climb into the skips out the back to scavenge rare GPO parts. Speaking to people like Tony was the whole appeal of the place to me, and there were plenty like me who visited the place from far and wide exactly because they'd heard it was the opposite of most museums - I initially found out about it from a great book called "Bollocks to Alton Towers" which is all about the theme of finding quirky British attractions. If it becomes sanitised, it just becomes another crappy modern museum, albeit one in the middle of bloody nowhere well off the tourist trail with a very limited audience. Welcome though the lottery funding is for much needed restoration of buildings, bringing in this consulti-twunt to make these changes sounds like a recipe for disaster and something really should be done before it's too late and he's alienated the very small pool of knowledgeable people who bring the place to life.
@fixit_f There's also a sequel to that book called "Far From the Sodding Crowd", have got both. Agree with all the comments. The success, or otherwise, of these places is that it's the knowledge of the guides that crucial not some standard script designed to maximize the throughput of guests by minimizing questions for which a detailed answer is required.
That would be the National Fishing Heritage Centre in Grimsby
My job there was in the futuristic exhibition loosely based around fish called "the posiedon experiment", it involved artefacts having their memory read by the organic super computer known as the organism. It culminated in a motion cinema experience which explored the memory of a long dead fisherman.
I think this is what you're after: fish in a museum (you can even see some on the front page)
It seems to be where the NHM put all the interesting stuff when they dumbed down the main museum.
Have you seen the dinosaur exhibit now? A few interesting skeletons and an awful lot of manufactured "educational" rubbish e.g. the animated t-rex.
Sounds like a typical British bureaucrat. Me right, you wrong,... me alpha, you butt kisser. How do these people get these jobs when they quite obviously don't have a clue? Oh yeah, it's given them as a reward for being a good boy and kissing the right butts for many years. Ability???? Why would that have any bearing on the matter? I'll have you know I've had dinner with Lord MuckettyMuck and ,my daughters horse is stabled at the same stable as the Queens 3rd butlers sons cleaner.
"The Trust have been trying to recruit actors to film chunks for their new interactive displays, with little regard for accuracy"
If only there was an actor who has sketchy (at best) knowledge of all things technical but everybody trusts because he's so lovely........
Someone call Fry!!
Seriously though, Stephen Fry seems a natural fit to champion this cause. Though some might criticise him on points of detail, he a genuine interest in technology, gay rights, languages and German history - and has a larger profile amongst the wider population than The Reg does.
Don't forget that he was vocal in his support of Paul Chambers, the man who was prosecuted (and later acquitted) after he tweeted jokingly that he would 'blow up Robin Hood airport'.
They desperately needed money, then the lottery cash arrived - and with it came a whole new bunch of people with ideas on how to spend it.
Remember the early lottery ads? "It could be you!" the disembodied voice proclaimed, as a big finger came out of the sky and pointed at random people on the street. I don't really think sacking elderly volunteers was what they had in mind.
film the existing volunteers giving their current presentation rather than actors ?
They already know all the likely questions so can cover those, have the enthusiasm for the subject etc
Unfortunately they will need to be replaced at some time ( due to the march of time..) - rather their presentation ( which I've experienced ) than some bloddy actor or worse Mr Stephen (Gary Kildall who ?) Fry
This is entirely predictable. For some years now any (BBC, anyway) history documentary has been a shitty docu-drama, like they're specifically catering for the audience that only watch implausible action movies or Disney CGI animations, and never watch anything made back in the days of monochrome. One charitably imagines those who decided to go this route thinking it is the only one likely to impart knowledge to the modern audience; except that it approaches knowledge the same way Hollywood does; the 'story' is more important than accuracy. My impression has been that History as entertainment morphs into entertainment as History at the speed of light.
Hmmmmm ... my general opinion is, and always has been, that if you can remember the name of the person doing a documentary, then that documentary has failed. It has become a vehicle for the presenter, not a documentary. David Attenborough and James Burke, wonderful as they were back in the day, were* essentially brands before there was much recognition of the concept in the minds of the public. Michael Wood consolidated it through the marketing of the "sexy academic", and then Tony Robinson made archaeology a branch of acting. The current crop of PR'd academics are just really irritating - Brian Cox, Neil Oliver and that bunch of vapid creatures on "Coast" are at the top of that list, but it goes on and on ...
I rarely watch any documentaries these days, and certainly not if I recognise the name of the person doing it - I think the only one I've watched in the last 12 months was the series about Bigfoot/Yetis, which wasn't particularly good but had no-one I'd ever heard of on it.
*Attenborough still is, of course, but I don't watch anything by him any more.
That phrase immediately sets of alarms. If you have a world class historical site, WHY do so many idiots feel the need to foist their vision of "a world-class attraction" on it. Sure, you can add meaningful entertainment to historical sites without spoiling it (I remember a castle in France which had installed a series of games in the courtyard, all either old, or meaningfully linked to the history of the place (like a simple game with toy crossbows, or an old variant of skittles). Really good sites allow at least a degree of exploration, allowing you to make up your own mind, and don't force one particular vision and one particular style down a visitor's throat. Why should Bletchley Park have problems with the different approach and attitude of the museum.
Someones ego needs deflation
There's no Kudos or career development in leaving things alone.
No one ever got promoted for not fixing something that wasn't broke.
But if you want glory, an OBE and/or a well paid job in a shiny big national museum you need to do a job of work on something smaller first........
It would seem that none of the trustees have any engineering or computer experience between them, save one woman who did "computer programming" for a couple of years before climbing the corporate ladder, and a telecoms exec. That said, there are Lawyers, Civil Servants, Historians and investment bankers aplenty.
No wonder Collosus, Tunny or any of the exhibits that made Bletchley park what it was have no support - it's too busy being run by executives who have no appreciation for what happened there from the technical and mathematical point of view. A woefully unqualified Board to run Bletchley, if you ask me, even if they can run large organisations.
And yeah, the Gullivers Kingdom guy is still on the board too - tells you all you need to know.
I think the actors were for filming segments of footage for use during the tour, not presenting the tours themselves.
I did the old tour with two 9-yearolds and I can say they got very bored unfortunately. Definitely not suitable for the younger consumer. I enjoyed it but I did feel it was a little slow in places. There was an element of is/is not colossus viewable today which I found a bit confusing. In the end we saw it.
Changes definitely welcome, but being sensible about it is also welcome.
My daughter listened to a family discussion of this news; she's currently in the first year of secondary school and visited BP and TNMOC last year. She was absolutely outraged, she thought both sites were fascinating just as they were. She assertively asked me to post here pointing out that these changes are to increase the appeal to people her age, and it sounds like the opposite to her.
She wants to write a letter making that point - who's best to send it to ? I'm thinking the Chairman of the BP trustees, c/o the BP main address ?
I've been to Bletchley twice now, once about 2 years ago and then again last October.. The difference was quite telling, in that it's now more public-friendly (shorter tours, eletronic "tour guide" iPod Touchs with video clips narrated by Jonathan Foyle and some "re-enactments").
I preferred the older version, which was a lot more rustic and feeling like you were exploring the old site, instead of what is becoming a tourist attraction built on the old site. But I know what is more likely to attract people to visit, so I can understand the motives.
The computing museum though, is very much a SPB style shed outfit, which I enjoyed immensely.
"The computing museum though, is very much a SPB style shed outfit, which I enjoyed immensely."
A well decorated shed built out of stone I might add, full of restored and working machines of all ages (Saturdays best to see then running) and equally working, enthusiastic volunteers of all ages.
I did what a previous posted suggested, and put this on BPs comments page at
Copy it to your heart's content, but send it to them!
What do you people think you're doing?
Colossus, Tunny etc. were an integral part of what happened at Bletchley Park. "Integral" means that those things that did happen, could not have happened without them.
Therefore it is beyond my understanding how these items are considered by the Trustees of Bletchley Park as non-central to the whole story of the place.
I note that you continue to receive substantial rent from TNMOC, yet you consider that Colossus and Tunny are no longer worthy of being part of your guided tours. (I count myself lucky, therefore, to have taken the tour some time ago, while they were still part of it).
Also note that TNMOC say that the inclusion of these items in the tour formed an important part of your successful Lottery funding bid. It looks very dishonest indeed to now exclude them.
Please reconsider this matter. How can you possibly give a full understanding of the technological and intellectual brilliance which was so much a part of Bletchley Park's wartime success, when you don't take paying visitors to see the concrete results of that brilliance?
This seems to be part of the overall agenda of this scumvernment and the associated 'establishment'. They don't want a well-educated populace that can challange their authoritarianism; they want the sheeple dumb enough, skint enough and hungry enough to be grateful for the scraps from their table.
Another example of the "look at the shiny-shiny" distractions being pumped out.
I've visited the Landschaftspark in Dusseldorf twice. It's a decomissioned steel plant, with its blast furnaces and such made accessible to the public (not all of it; its gasometer is now a diving tank and the generator hall is an auditorium, for instance). Entrance is free, day and night, but you can arrange for a tour guide, most of whom are guys who have worked there, at the coal face so to speak. Having one of them explain what they did, how they did it and what it was like, operating the drill to drain a load of molten iron from the furnace, then have it flow down a channel in the floor just meters away from you.
That's something no one else can convey.
Sadly, in common with Bletchley, the boss (lady at NCM) is a complete a*hole - arguably so outstanding in that respect that she could be standen's role model - i.e. the people that actually have relevant knowledge and experience are just an annoying distraction. Is it something about this kind of job that attracts them?
And this applies to more than just this specific instance
The trust(ees) know what they want to achieve - more people of all ages visting and finding out about what went on; inform, educate, entertain etc
But trustees of can't do this of themselves so they have to rely upon consultants, staff, volunteers etc.
In some ways a trust is like a business, the trustees are something like a board of directors, and there are well-managed businesses and badly-managed businesses. You might not care so much if a double-glazing firm in the next county went to the wall through bad management but when its something that is of national importance you do.
Sorry got a bit rambly there
Disclaimer: I am trustee of a number of charities.
Trustees do not need to spend vast sums of money on consultants, they just need to have the conviction of their investigations, experience and gut feelings, and go for it. But that does require them to actually know about the organisation they are trustees for!
What we are seeing here are trustees who don't understand what is so special about the site, the museum collections, the human history, and the insight the volunteer's bring. Because they don't understand it they have no conviction of feeling, so they outsource that to consultants as an expensive insurance (if it goes tits-up, they can blame the consultants and escape Scott-free.)
Trustees have to ensure that a charity is run in the best interests of the charity (follow its mission statement if you will). That doesn't mean making lots of money, or hiving it all off to a few fat-cat employees - in fact by definition a charity shouldn't make a profit! And a charity can't just change its mission statement; for instance a dog's home suddenly changing to become a cat's home, or a site dedicated to the preservation of an important part of national history changing to become a theme park.
I often hear the term "professional management team". To me this just equates to people who have never worked on the shop floor, but instead went to the right school and have made a living lurching from disaster to disaster just before they are found out. They should never be allowed near any position of responsibility and certainly never near a charity! In one national charity that I’ve been involved in for over 30 years, (but I am not a trustee for), the CEO’s wage accounts for 1/8 of all spending and the head office staffing over 55% and yet the mission statement says “run by the members for the members”!
Sickening ... as Bletchley was was entirely about the /people/ ... the technology was merely a bi-product of their ingenuity and dedication.
To remove the human element from the tour is to ... well ... can't say it better than the article already said: turn it into a geeky disneyland - dummed-down hollywood style. To what end? Profit?
This reminds me of my childhood in New Zealand - my Granddad who served on an Aerodrome near Barnet through WWII used to tell me first hand stories of life in wartime England. There is absolutely no substitute for this kind of knowledge transfer.
This is exactly what has happened to the Space Centre in Houston. I was so looking forward to that but id was full of dumbed down exhibits with no recognition of the technology and the people involved. I was caught on the way out my a market researcher asking me what I thought. When asked about my overall experience I answered that I would have enjoyed it more if I had 9/10th of my brain removed as that represents the level of intellectual stimulation. Contrast that with the Pima air museum just outside Tucson AZ. It was full of guys that had been in the Air Force / Army flying these planes. There where a couple of guys there that had flown the bombers over in Europe during WWII and their stories and view of what it was like was fascinating. We spent most of the day there - even my wife found it interesting. Unlike the Space centre which we left after a hour or so.
Ah yes - the Johnson manned space center (as was). First went there about 20 years ago - fascinating stuff, guided by people who were space geeks. Now that I live just up the road (well, in Texas terms - about 200 miles) it's an easy day trip - and no longer worth the effort. Some of the 'specials' they put on are OK but in general it's set up for the touring family with young kids and no real interest in the space program outside crappy CGI movies. The 'more interesting' (read older) parts are almost deserted. I suspect because they aren't interactive enough.
Much the same has happened to the Kennedy facility. There is a saving grace there though. Pay for the Canaveral rocket site tour. That's the old army rocket/missile sites. Again (well, as of a couple of years ago) that is still guided by people who worked there when they were preparing things like nuclear anti-aircraft missiles designed to take out the Russian bomber fleets in mid-atlantic. You get to see the bunker which was the control station for the original Redstone manned flights. And find out why it was only 250 ft from the launch pad. Wonderful stuff - highly recommended for your El-Reg reader.
..... to look at the exhibits and hear from people who have working knowledge of them. I don't go to one in order to watch videos on a fucking ipod, I can watch the videos at home.
On payday I will be purchasing 100 pixels to sponsor a valve on Colossus. If all the people commenting on here do the same it may be a nice boost for them. Who is with me?
... if you want to engage with folk passionate about the stuff they curate. A couple I know of are the Royal Observatory in Hurstmonceaux which has actual researchers, typically postgrads, living on site doing the tours /and/ an active ARS with radio telescopes, radar etc. fired up to show visitors. The electric museum in Christchurch, Dorset is actually amazing and staffed by volunteer retired engineers. Call first before going on a weekday to make sure someone's going to be there. I found both to be way more engaging that BP (it's been a few years since I last went though), and both are much better if you're taking kids along. I personally did enjoy the colossus, but the commercial computing exhibit was shut when I went. (What I could see though the window resembled my loft and garage.)
Maybe thereg could compile a list of tech attractions for rainy days and order them by actual sci/eng interest.
By Damn, Herstmonceux! Apart from their 'weird science' interactive exhibits, the best part was listening to one of the astronomers explaining how the whole observatory had been designed to 'blend' into the environment, with copper domes that weathered to produce a neon green that stood out from the trees like a searchlight, and variable level platforms and walkways interspersed with interesting water features. Apparently, in the days of purely eyeball astronomy, many an astronomer, trying to maintain his/her night vision, ended up in the water or falling to their doom (well, sprained ankles were the main issue) when the ground suddenly turned into a staircase in the dark.
Interactive displays, minimum wage actors and professional video would never have reduced an entire tour group to helpless laughter as we listened to the stories from someone who was there
Some years ago I visted Vulcan XH558 at Bruntingthorpe whilst it was still being rebuilt. My friend and I were in the separate cockpit display that they had and ended up having a chat with an ex-RAF bod who used to do some of the electronic/comms on various Vulcan flights. Very enlightening it was too. It made the experience of seeing a Vulcan a lot more entertaining.
The Midland Aircraft Museum just outside Coventry has a complete Vulcan you can stand under and go in the cockpit. The guides are excellent, too! My wife was strangely affected to be sat in the seat that held people who would have released the bomb on her home country if the balloon went up ...
God, I miss being in the Midlands - so much more to do than in Scotland :-(
I emailed this article to my wife. it is one more reason for us to raid the piggy bank and head over. Mind you, she's the type of gal who was excited when I phoned her from Chicago's Museum of Science & Tech to tell her I was staring at a four rotor Enigma.
In a way, not only is the overall museum a memorial to those WWII workers, but the fact we are amiably chatting in English is also a memorial. Verstehen Sie mich?
Actors? I think they mean minimum wage spot ridden kids who have no interest in the history or importance of Bletchley.
It always makes my skin crawl when people talk about world class attractions, it normally means lots of tacky sh1te in a gift shop that you HAVE to walk through before you can leave. Whatever happened to google getting involved and preserving it for the sake of its importance to the computer industry? I'm sure I read somewhere that they were going to do so.
The "elderly pensioners who made Bletchley Park" aren't going to be around forever.
The electro-mechanical and vacuum tube technologies enshrined here will recede further and further into the past.
as will memories of the Second World War.
The makes the role of the actor --- the presenter or interpreter --- who doesn't know the tech or the history first-hand --- more important and more challenging.
But who is best placed to pass on and teach the real history to any reinactors.... not the "suits" but the long standing and knowledgeable veteran volunteers. You don't get rid of the veterans BEFORE you bring in the pantomime mob, you actively engage them to pass on their knowledge over time so when they are unable to continue as volunteers they have laid the foundations for historically accurate enactments, and hopeful other new equally enthusiastic guides as well.
You don't get rid of the veterans BEFORE you bring in the pantomime mob, you actively engage them to pass on their knowledge over time...
I agree that the transition needs to be planned.
But nostalgia for the days when Bletchley Park was for the geek alone and senior volunteers could carry the full weight of the educational program is misguided.
"But nostalgia for the days when Bletchley Park was for the geek alone and senior volunteers could carry the full weight of the educational program is misguided."
Why? What the hell is wrong with having something that requires intelligence, imagination, and a modicum of education to enjoy it? Why in the name of all that is good should everything be dumbed down to the level of the stupidest, attention-challenged, spoiled spawn of a mumsnet blogger?? Have some ambition!!
Like many other commentators here I visited BP last year and found the Colossus and Diplomatic Wireless Service parts by far the most interesting sections - both quirky, manned by real, knowledgeable enthusiasts and bringing the whole place and era alive in a way that no sanitised info-tainment cobblers ever could. I understand that the DWS stuff has now gone (anyone know where??) but most telling was that my opinion was shared by my 16 year old daughter - I guess part of the target demographic for Standon's vision - who found the rest of the place pretty boring and "just like every other museum". What morons like Standon never understand is that aping all of the other trash is a surefire road to oblivion. If he and the trustees had any integrity or gumption they'd realise that the key to BP is that it's DIFFERENT and interesting because of that. If I ever return it will only be to the NMOC...
"...who found the rest of the place pretty boring and "just like every other museum". What morons like Standon never understand is that aping all of the other trash is a surefire road to oblivion."
I agree with the sentiment about them all being the same - Mrs IP and I no longer visit National Trust properties because of the sheen of corporate sameness over them. We only go to independent places, which are far more interesting and will often have someone from the family who owns the place showing us round. However, there is no shortage of people who go to NT places *because* they know what they are going to get - just like people who go to foreign places and want McDonalds ...
I worry that more and more people like us are becoming a smaller minority.
If you get a HLF grant it seems compulsory to stress "education" in your attraction, which never seems to mean exhibits with detailed explanations that you have to read - rather, "interactive exhibits" with no historical significance.
In 2001 they re-opened Standedge Tunnel (longest canal tunnel in the UK at 3.25miles) on the Huddersfield Narrow Canal and created a visitor centre, converting the old tunnel-side building that housed exhibits about the tunnel and canal into a caff. That small building had more of interest that the sodding great mill they converted in to the visitor centre/tunnel boat departure point. The fact that the Standedge Tunnel Visitor Centre claims to be a "quality assured visitor attraction" should tell you all you need to know.
Whenever I'm visiting somewhere and it all turns a bit "interactive" I look for the HLF sign and invariable find one.
Standen should be replaced by someone with the remit to integrate the National Museum of Computing within Bletchley Park so that the Tunny and Colossus machines can be the star attractions alongside the Bombe rebuild. The Bombe rebuild is in a silly place at the moment - it belongs in a bleedin' hut!
Whoever replaces Standen should also wholeheartedly approve of the concept of "ramshackle". Lets face it those of us who appreciate the place don't want hoards of visitors getting in the way :-)
I visited BP a few years ago for the first time. I was under a bit of time pressure as I had to take a plane from Heathrow, so only had about an hour to do it all. I wanted to see the Colossus and made my way straight from the entrance office to the back where this is housed. I went through a door and interrupted a guy who was talking to a video camera to make a video presentation. He was REALLY upset at being distracted and let of a fair bit of steam, before he banished me alone to the room where the machines are installed. A couple of minutes later another guy appeared to officially open up, and he too was a bit surprised to find me already there only ten minues after BP had opened for the day. After a short explanation he went and talked to the first guy who came back with him, and a profuse apology and a personal tour of the machines and the closed sections of the nascent NMOC followed. The guy at the video camera turned out to be Dr. Tony Sale, who played a huge part in the campaign to stop BP being turned into a housing estate in the late 80s. It was a fascinating tour, and he got something out of it too: When we came to the mobile device exhibit I commented that he was missing the first touch screen mobile phone / PDA. He said "we would love to have one, but can't find one." Ten days lated he received a package with a mint IBM Simon, which I had kept in the cellar for almost ten years. BTW I missed my plane.
Every one can have an off day, but Dr. Sale had the grace to immediately admit it and turned my frist negative experience into a posistive one that I will never forget. He's probably spinning in his grave right now......
Incidentally, there is also a great museum of computing in Switzerland http://www.enter-online.ch/
As mentioned earlier, we need ALL the facts, and and most of them are here:
You also need to know that 90 minute tour was too long for most people (feedback proved that), and that the 60 minute tour was not imposed on the volunteer guides, but developed with their full involvement.
Although change is inevitable, we can see the increase in paid staff and that's not sustainable unless we increase the number of paying guests hugely. And that can only happen if we have something to attract them. So dumbing down is therefore essential....
A response to BP's latest 'statement of facts'.
In the section 'Fences and Gates' they claim to be 'erecting a fence and gates around the heritage aspect of the Bletchley Park site' clearly implying that those parts of Bletchley Park that are outside of the fence are not part of the heritage aspect. So historic Block H is NOT part of the heritage of the park, the building's machine rooms, presentation in the Tunny room and Colossus itself IS NOT part of the heritage aspect of BP! That is a BP 'fact' so please open your history books and tear out pages 150-240 because it didn't happen and if any of it did, well it wasn't important enough. Some posters on a wall and maybe an entry into the guide book will do.
They go on to say that the division of Bletchley Park site is for the 'security and protection of the iconic home of the Codebreakers' So again the role of Block H is not recognised. Codebreakers did not go anywhere near Block H, they did not use it for anything important and it does not matter. I think it was used to store some old machines.
BP is rewriting history with this disgraceful language and it has to be fought inch by inch. Bletchley park as a complete site is the heritage site and an internal sub-division by language or physical fences is a betrayal of Bletchley Park itself, a betrayal of the work done here in WW2 and in particular a betrayal of the work performed in both F Block (original location for Colossus Mk 1 and many other important machines that were part of the industrialisation of code breaking) + Block H and machine rooms that hosted the Colossus computers. This is the thin end of the wedge, it is the same mentality that lost large parts of the original estate, that allowed buildings to be destroyed or left to rot. It is prioritising history according to the needs of a theme park to control visitors.
F Block was deeply significant in the codebreaking story - in particular the west end close to the disgusting fence that divides the 'good' and 'bad' side of Bletchley Park. Although BT demolished the building a green area remained and (I believe) the original steps into one of the entrances to the very building that hosted the Colossus Mk1. Bletchley Park has shown their respect for this area by gracing it with a car park but don't worry, they pulled up and discarded those original steps and now are merrily planting flower borders. As visitors park their cars on the site of the installation of the world's first computer, at least they can smell the roses.
BP are airbrushing history. They are reducing Block H to some pictures on boards alongside a Nazi swastika. They are fencing out a great British achievement but hosting the US McAfee at the other end of the park. They must be resisted at all costs - Block H, the automation of codebreaking and that impact on the development of computing must not be lost by these fools and vandals.
Concerning visitors to BP - Bletchley Park says in its 'facts' that it has concern for its '...ever growing number of visitors which include the elderly..'
If the gate remains, a BP elderly visitor could come to the gate, peer through and 'see' Block H, but if they want to know more they will have to walk all the way down to the Block C reception, exit the 'historic aspect' of the park into the rain-soaked barren cold and dark 'also rans' part of the Park and then walk all the way back up to Block H? Surely anyone with any real interest in the Park couldn't possible assume this to be fair to their visitors and fair to those who worked at Block H and gave as much to the work to bring a world war to an end as anyone working in a wooden hut.
Someone should fund an oral history project recording all the volunteer histories, They are going to disappear and be mourned terribly, Before they do they should be cherished and sustained. That Tony Carroll was punished in front of media because his work was especially praised on Trip Advisor is a heavily ironic thing,
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