Bletchley Park Trust has been accused of freezing out the National Museum of Computing by excluding it from tours
The National Museum of Computing (TMNOC) has accused The Bletchley Park Trust (BPT) of attempting to isolate the museum from its guide tours, following reports of tension between the two charities, which share the historic home of Britain’s World War II codebreakers.
The Museum occupies Block H at Bletchley Park, where the first Colossus computers were built during the war, and pays rent and utility bills to the Bletchley Park Trust, which manages the whole site. While the Museum has been developing volunteer-based projects and houses exhibits including a restoration of the Colossus machines, the Trust has been developing the site as a whole, with public and private money. Now, the Museum says the Trust is excluding it from guided tours and “fragmenting” the site with gates and barriers between the two organisations’ exhibits.
The Bletchley Park Trust has an £8 million Lottery-funded restoration project and has gathered sponsorship from firms such as Google and McAfee, The Museum says it has been excluded from the tour route of the expanding musuem, a measure which the BPT says is necessary to reduce the time of the tour from more than 90 minutes to one hour.
The Museum says visitor numbers have fallen as a result and that many are missing out on seeing key working exhibits, such as the Colossus Rebuild. It said negotiations to rectify the situation had been “exceedingly difficult”.
“The Bletchley Park Trust’s current action to erect gates and barriers between its own display area and Block H will almost certainly prove divisive,” said TMNOC in a statement. “TNMOC wants to see the whole Bletchley Park site reach its full potential in honour of the men and women who worked at Bletchley Park during World War II.”
Haven’t got a clue?
Volunteer Tony Carroll was dismissed after years of service by the BPT for continuing to show visitors to the museum, after it was dropped form the official tour: “They haven’t got a clue. They are ruining this place,” Carroll told the BBC. “We are all very upset about not being able to tell the story we want to.”
Ian Standen, CEO Bletchley Park Trust was unmoved: “Unfortunately, this is a process of change and maybe there are one or two can’t keep with this change,” hetold the BBC, adding he would tell anyone who couldn’t keep up with the changes: “Thank you very much for your service. But if we’re going to go forward, we’ve got to keep going forward with the vision we’re trying to deliver, which is a high quality heritage attraction.”
Bletchley Park defence
Although the Trust’s CEO contributed to the BBC report, the BPT has issued a statement saying the piece, which aired on the six o clock news on 24 January, was “inaccurate”, as it did not show that the restoration of Bletchley Park had been “very much a team effort.”
“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,” it says. “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.”
It also denied accusations that it is isolating TMNOC, claiming that the museum is still accessible to visitors.
“This museum remains on-site and accessible, by way of a separate admission charge, to anyone visiting Bletchley Park,” it said. “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.
“The short BBC piece did not explain the purpose or nature of the changes at Bletchley Park.”
The Bletchley Park Trust is no stranger to recent controversies and has been accused of trying to airbrush history after admitting that its cyber security gallery would ignore the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.
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