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Bletchley Park squashes rumours of Computing Museum fall out

Storm in a code hut needs sorting out
Thu Jan 30 2014, 14:24
The main house at Bletchley Park

CODE BREAKING INSTITUTION Bletchley Park has denied reports that it kicked out a volunteer and is forcing out the National Museum of Computing (NMOC).

Reports claimed that Bletchley Park roundly booted out a volunteer who worked for the National Museum of Computing. This story has been picked up in various places. Despite the headlines the short version is that no one, volunteer or otherwise has been removed from the Milton Keynes computing and cryptology park. However, there are some issues.

Reports, that started at the BBC - only a cached version remains - said that the Bletchley Park people have been throwing their weight around and ignoring the people who have worked there for years in favour of corporate sponsorship. Bletchley Park is accused of pushing the museum aside and ploughing ahead with a new visitor centre and corralling its own resources.

In a statement Bletchley Park said that it values all of its volunteers, but accepts that it had failed to meet an accord with the NMOC over shared ticketing prices and tours, adding that the two are and remain separate entities that share a space, albeit a space that will be divided by a fence.

"Operating independently means that The National Museum of Computing continues to occupy Block H and develop its own Museum. It has its own opening hours, continues to charge its own entry fees and conduct its own marketing activities," Bletchley Park said in a statement.

"Volunteer tour guide Tony Carroll has not been sacked. He continues to be a valued volunteer at the Bletchley Park Trust. He was asked to stop giving public tours as he been unwilling to deliver the shorter revised tour. He continues to work voluntarily for the [Bletchley Park] Trust in the Education department, providing tours for school groups."

The National Museum of Computing said the same thing, but in a different tone. It said that the two have struggled to reach agreement and that Bletchley Park's plans are willfully divisive.

"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," it said. "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."

Visitors will also miss out according to the statement, as Bletchley Park's plans are limiting visits to exhibitions like the one that displays the Colossus Rebuild.

An earlier statement from the park spoke in more detail about how valued volunteers are, and included comments from some very happy ones. "Volunteering is a choice, not a chore, and BP is a great place," said one.

However, the disharmony, wherever it presents itself, is not ideal and needs to be sorted out as soon as possible. There is clearly an issue and passing comments over blog posts is unlikely to resolve it.

The two sides have enjoyed a close relationship for some time. Both have secured a place in computing history and both are preserving worthy archives, so it would be a shame to see either falter. µ


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