Bletchley Park May Close Due to Lack of Funds

Sad.

But, despite an impressive contribution to the war effort, the Bletchley Park site, now a museum, faces a bleak future unless it can secure funding to keep its doors open and its numerous exhibits from rotting away.

The Bletchley Park Trust receives no external funding. It has been deemed ineligible for funding by the National Lottery, and turned down by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation because the Microsoft founder will only fund internet-based technology projects.

"We are just about surviving. Money -- or lack of it -- is our big problem here. I think we have two to three more years of survival, but we need this time to find a solution to this," said Simon Greenish, the Trust's director.

As a result of lack of funds, the Trust is unable to rebuild the site's rotting infrastructure and faces an uncertain future. "The Trust is the hardest-up museum I know," said Greenish. "We have this huge estate to run and it's one of the most important World War II stories there is."

Anybody out there want to help put together a major contribution?

EDITED TO ADD (5/30): Yes, I am willing to be a focal point for donations. But I'm hoping for some major donors.

EDITED TO ADD (6/13): Donate here.

Posted on May 30, 2008 at 6:45 AM • 60 Comments

Comments

ChrisMay 30, 2008 7:09 AM

Such a shame. I was there only last weekend and, quite apart from its importance in the war story, it's the most fascinating place with some inspirational stories.

It's falling apart, but requires surprisingly little to keep it afloat. I paid my entry fee and made a donation willingly ... but it does need a supportive angel to secure its future.

Matt PalmerMay 30, 2008 7:14 AM

Very sad news. I recently visited Bletchley, and was given a superb and fascinating tour of the site by their knowledgeable staff - some of whom knew some of the original people involved. I gained a new appreciation for the incredible effort and collaboration between many people of different skills and abilities that made it possible. Among the many interesting exhibits, I was treated to a demonstration of the newly rebuilt Colussus machine. It has significance not only as a war museum, but also of the history of computers in general.

RoenigkMay 30, 2008 7:22 AM

Some other priorities prevent a sizable donation to this worthy project. However, perhaps we could provide some benefit through 'financial theater'. Seriously. How could the Schneier blog readers bring attention to the plight of Bletchley Park, make the public feel good about it, while not really having to spend any real funds?

Tremaine LeaMay 30, 2008 8:01 AM

I haven't had the chance to travel to Britain to see this, and I hope to heck it's still there when I do have the opportunity.

Bruce, any chance you'd want to be the coordinating point for donations? I'm sure a lot of us would post the story and donation link with someone trusted like yourself at the focal point.

GaithMay 30, 2008 8:01 AM

it's next to where i live, so probably will go give them a visit this weekend.

RoxanneMay 30, 2008 8:07 AM

"Anybody out there want to help put together a major contribution?"

Define 'major'. Do they need thousands or millions of pounds?

CarnadineMay 30, 2008 8:07 AM

There are certainly enough computer and history geeks to make a pretty big fuss about this. If we post on blogs, sign petitions, write to newspapers and MPs, et cetera, we can bring this into the public eye. The Brits are pretty proud of their war history, aren't they? I can't imagine that letting Bletchley Park rot away would be a very popular decision, and the site ought to be eligible for government funding.

British citizens and residents can sign a petition at http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/BletchleyPark/ There are only eleven so far; this is evidently not a very high-profile story yet.

They also have a hard-to-find online donation page at http://www.cafonline.org/apps/Charities/... Search "bletchley park" - the site sucks so badly it doesn't even seem to have permalinks to the actual donation page. (Come to think of it, maybe it wouldn't be such a good idea to give them credit card numbers after all...)

A reliable place to donate would definitely be a good thing.

bobMay 30, 2008 8:13 AM

Oh no! I was TDY to Croughton (not far from Milton Keynes) in the mid-90s and was unaware of BP (or at least its existence as a tourist facility) at the time. If I had known I would have gone. Maybe it's time to burn some accumulated leave and go check it out while it's still available.

It's sad to see these examples of important history decay, but (kind of like the junk in my basement) it's triage - you cant save everything.

CarnadineMay 30, 2008 8:16 AM

There's only so far you can triage. Losing BP would be an unacceptable loss, in my opinion, and hopefully enough other people agree with me.

As for how much they need (sorry, Roxanne, we posted at the same time) they say on their site ( http://www.bletchleypark.org.uk/news/... ) that:

"The iconic Victorian Mansion requires in the region of £1,000,000 for repairs to the roof and some of the symbolic Codebreaking Huts are in a desperate state of decay."

So at least a million pounds. Probably much more.

Secure ITMay 30, 2008 8:21 AM

Could it be that the British Government will step up and help secure the future of a proud history that once secured it's own future?

Josh OMay 30, 2008 8:27 AM

FYI, for those who don't know off hand, £1,000,000 ~ $1,970,000 US. So if 20,000 of us just donated $10! :-)

dbdMay 30, 2008 8:51 AM

I've been there several times and added an extra donation - but not for a couple of years.

As to potential big donors, I guess Mick Jagger might be a good place to start - if he kicks in a big chunk of change and everyone here combines to try to match it.

MattiMay 30, 2008 8:52 AM

I've visited Bletchley Park twice this year. It's about an hour's drive from my home. It's a great place to visit but clearly run down. The first time I visited the guided tour was given by a lovely lady who had worked on the Bombe machines during the war!

Bletchley Park is also the site of Tony Sale's Colossus reconstruction project (http://www.codesandciphers.org.uk/). It was wonderful to hear Tony introduce the project and to see the Colossus working.

So go there now and buy a ticket to help them out! As an added bonus, it's an annual pass so you can visit as often as you like.

rbtrojMay 30, 2008 8:57 AM

Well, I don't have a remarkably large network, but I am getting the word out, and some of those folks DO have reather sizable networks to which I'm certain they will relay.

I have to express some skepticism over the story's portrayal of Gate's philanthropy. I don't believe his and his wife's foundation give ONLY to tech related endeavors.

AJBMay 30, 2008 9:03 AM

My parents (one US, one UK) both worked at Bletchley Park during the War. I've visited the site and it's hard to emphasize how impressive the place is (at least to anyone who understands the role that SIGINT played in ensuring an Allied victory). The recent resurrection and operation of COLUSSUS shows how important this place is in the world of computing and security.

I like the previous post: that if 20,000 of us each gave $10 they'd have the money they need for urgent repair.

If there's a way to coordinate this (PayPal, a designated charity?) post it here, please.

BPMay 30, 2008 9:04 AM

I would certainly donate if there were an easy way to do so (PayPal, etc.). I was stationed in London for 18 months (many years ago) and never knew it was even open to the public.

I will echo the sentiments of others, if you take up the cause Bruce - "they will come."

JohnMay 30, 2008 9:05 AM

BP made key contributions to the development of computers. The roots of all computers are at BP.

I don't know if Bill Gates has personally heard of BP but if not he should.

Certainly all the major computer companies should contribute.

MilanMay 30, 2008 9:13 AM

This is particularly sad given how all those who worked at BP during the war had to keep their recollections secret for thirty years.

If someone finds a PayPal donation option, I will contribute.

CosMay 30, 2008 9:19 AM

Why a "major contribution"? Aren't we in a better position to put together an online small-dollar fundraising effort that could, over three years, raise a lot more money than any "major" contribution would?

D0RMay 30, 2008 9:27 AM

It would be nice if the government drained some funds from the terrorist witch hunt program to Bletchley Park.

JonMay 30, 2008 10:11 AM

I agree w/ Cos above. A lot of $50-$100 donations I think will go a long way. Bruce, I just registered SaveBletchleyPark.org, if you want to use that for a domain. Just tell me where to point it at or to whom I should transfer it.

I would think getting a simple PayPal donation button would be an easy start...

Jon

TomMay 30, 2008 10:13 AM

That would be a real tragedy if Bletchley Park was allowed to fall into ruin. I visited there about 7 years ago and had a delightful tour guided by a lady who worked there during WWII. In our tour group was the grandson of Arthur Scherbius. How about if British Petroleum contributes some of their obscene oil profits to this worthy venture.

Stephen SmoogenMay 30, 2008 10:30 AM

Actually, how can we make this an "Internet based technology project"? History that is forgotten is repeated quite painfully.. if we are somehow able to "hybridize" the past and current 'code-breaking' into something youth can see and feel.. I think we can attract the larger funding also.

jtMay 30, 2008 10:35 AM

Not directly relevant to this discussion, but the Gates Foundation funds lots of things not internet-based, including major initiatives to address health issues and poverty around the world.

SteveMay 30, 2008 10:41 AM

It wasn’t just Britain that benefited from the pivotal contribution Bletchley Park made to the war effort. The intelligence gathered there was of benefit to all the allies and the liberation of Europe from fascism was made possible by the outstanding work conducted by the code breakers. My point being that Bletchley is of wider historical importance.

alanMay 30, 2008 10:59 AM

Someone should contact PGP and all the other companies that make money off of crypto and get them to donate. They owe them a lot.

Give the money to meMay 30, 2008 11:03 AM

I'm willing to set up a paypal account where the funds are transferred to my bank. Then I will proceed to hand the money over to Blotchy Park, minus a small (miniscule really) processing and handling fee.

How does that sound?

Hugh SinclairMay 30, 2008 2:30 PM

Maybe they could move it to the U.S., like across the railroad tracks from Odenton, Maryland.

AnonymousMay 30, 2008 3:05 PM

I doubt Microsoft would sponsor Bletchley Park (unless, of course, the Bombe machines can be made to run Vista).

If you're looking for a corporate sponsor, ask the Media Companies. Tell them that this place broke some of the best crypto available, and that it's just the sort of thing they need to get to terms with piracy via encrypted P2P!

P.T. BarnumMay 30, 2008 3:30 PM

> Maybe they could move it to the U.S
Great idea! But why Maryland? How about in Arizona, next to London Bridge?

AnonymousMay 30, 2008 3:38 PM

@AJB
>My parents ... worked at Bletchley Park

What a great pedigree! You've got the genes, brother.

vMay 30, 2008 6:18 PM

While demonstrating the Enigma-E devices at DC last year, many of our visitors became involved in our discussions about Bletchley Park. We are taking the -E's to DC again this year and will talk this up to our visitors. $10.00 isn't to much to ask to save such an international treasure.

Thanks for posting it Bruce

RonKMay 30, 2008 7:01 PM

@ Josh

You meant $100 or you are using some kind of new encryption scheme for numbers I am not familiar with....

Or perhaps 200k donors?

bombardierMay 31, 2008 2:05 AM

If Bletchley Park is allowed to be left to decay it will be a real tragedy. I don't envisage much support from a Labour government that is intent on slowly removing every trace of history and identity from it's own people. I for one will be sending links and letters to as many people as I can think of.

Second-tier volunteerMay 31, 2008 11:20 AM

A million pounds. That'll knock the heck out of somebody's petty cash. No wonder Gates won't back it -- though with him it would hardly dent the bus-fare fund.

And that's a really, really expensive roof, if the rather haphazard punctuation and sentence sructure on the Bletchley site mean what they seem to. I wonder what the bill is for the rest of the stuff that needs to be done.

Still, it's small potatoes next to what it cost to repair the Conservatory in Golden Gate Park after a storm blew all the glass out of the decaying wood frames. And they managed that, the equivalent of 15 million pounds worth, with lots of matching funds from a central government that's very big but world-beatingly stingy about supporting Arts and things.

Does Bletchley have some kind of organiSed campaign to raise the funds? Being used to the US system, where one can dangle a tax deduction in front of potential large donors, I don't know how these things are handled in the Mother Country, except that they don't have the same please-the-rich incentive scheme. And I don't suppose some Yank could organize a tax-deductible conduit foundation to forward the money: we don't have no tax advantages for something that benefits furriners.

Even without a subsidy from the government, though, it would be fitting if a bunch of Americans managed to combine to make a difference here. After all, the little monument at Runnymede was bought by a bunch of American lawyers, who revered the Magna Carta (at least as much as anybody over there) many years before Bush undertook his plan to make us appreciate its lost beauty. Sustantial money ought be available here for Bletchley Park, considering (a) computer history (b) saving civilization (c) did I mention Turing's sexual orientation? But it's hard to get us to throw non-trivial donations at something that's a little vague about how the money will be allocated.

Anyway, if anybody is putting together a campaign for middling-large contributions in terms that can be made plausible to Americans, I'd like to hear about it, whether in this blog or at the e-mail address attached to this.

AlanMay 31, 2008 2:30 PM

Does the park (or one of its benefectors) count as a 501(c)3 organization as far as the IRS is concerned? That would make it much easier for American benefactors to donate (especially if they must do so through a foundation for tax purposes).

Porlock Hussein JuniorJune 1, 2008 2:03 AM

IANAL, but I've taken charitable deductions in more than one form, and there's a basic rule that no foreign organization can be 501(c)(3) or equivalent. (I've also contributed to a Canadian university in a way that would be deductible inside the US, and found no way of getting a deduction.) It's conceivable that a 501(c)(3) public foundation could take contributions and pass them on for work at Bletchley, but I wouldn't bet on it.

OTOH the Gates foundation obviously spends money overseas, and they'd never miss a bet on deductibility, so maybe there would be a way.

Tremaine LeaJune 1, 2008 2:23 PM

@Bruce Schneier

I noticed you've added a note to indicate you're willing to act as a focal point - where can we direct donations? I'm putting together material to send to corporations/government/media, and it'd be great to include this information for them. I'll direct those with smaller donations to use the cafonline site.

anonymous#83400943June 1, 2008 4:44 PM

I think IACR should engage itself more in to this matter. Perhaps someone should organize a petition at Crypto 2008 in august and send it to British Ministry of culture, to persuade them to take action.

Frode WeierudJune 2, 2008 4:16 AM

Bruce,
Many thanks for taking up this problem. Bletchley Park (BP) needs all the media coverage it can get. Pressure needs to be brought on the British Government to make them finally take care of this unique heritage. The present situation cannot continue and a solid solution must be found for ensuring BP's future as a museum.
However, the British media seems curiously uninterested in BP's problems. As recently as last week I tried to interest the media in this problem and to show the active and dedicated voluntary work going on at BP. I am here especially thinking of the Colossus and Turing-Welchman Bombe Rebuild Projects. These projects have been successful only because of dedicated individuals who refused to be stopped by the financial and other obstacles put in their way.
The Bombe Rebuild Project has successfully been breaking real World War II message for more than six months, but a German Naval message they received last year they could not break due to the fact that they do not have the extra naval rotors. This message, which turns out to be the last message from the battle cruiser Scharnhorst, was instead broken last week by the M4 Message Breaking Project. Full information about Scharnhorst's Last Message and the break is given here:
http://cryptocellar.org/bgac/Scharnhorst.html

Frode

SamJune 2, 2008 1:26 PM

My 5quid donation was refunded without explanation. Anybody know what's up here?

SaxonJune 2, 2008 3:59 PM

I used to work at Perot. Let me see if I can scare up the curator there (they have a collection of computer history, including several sections of Eniac). They would be in a good position to help, if they're willing.

GarethJune 3, 2008 5:59 AM

A direct link to the BP Donation page: http://www.bletchleypark.org.uk/shop/...
@Bruce: I've submitted this story to /. along with a link to here. If you're serious about being a focal point for donations it'd be nice to have a link so we can donate through you (slashdoters' aren't going to read through the comments to find the BP link).

bombardierJune 3, 2008 6:09 AM

@Gareth.

Where did you find that link, I can't seem to navigate to it from within the main site - just want to make sure it's not going to disappear into the ether or it's an old system they no longer use?

GarethJune 3, 2008 6:22 AM

Bobardier: On the front page of the site (nasty as it is) it's on the right, in the "Learning" headed box. Far right, the link is "Make a Donation to Bletchley Park Trust" in large blue letters.

JasonJune 3, 2008 6:22 PM

FYI - that link should be stable. I specifically emailed last week for "a dead simple way for us to PayPal money for donations" and got a response this morning with this. It's not PayPal but they've hit everything but. :-) Mastercard/Solo/Switch/Visa/Visa Electron/Worldpay.

MartinJune 4, 2008 12:00 AM

Why should I care? It's just a building. The real import is the schematics of the machinery, the algorithms used, etc.

Frode WeierudJune 4, 2008 4:56 AM

To those who want to help BP there is also the possibility of becoming a Friend of Bletchley Park. The full information is available on their Web site at:
http://www.bletchleypark.org.uk/content/contact/...

To Martin, who thinks some old buildings don't matter, much more is at play than the old Huts and the Mansion. The rebuild of the Colossus and the Turing-Welchman Bombe would probably not have been possible without BP as a place to do the work and to collect the scarce archive material and survivor interviews. No schematics existed of either the Colossus or the Bombe before their rebuild. The rebuilds are a kind of forensic engineering where many bits and pieces were painstakingly put together to fit what was known about their operations. It is first today, with the machines up and running, that we are fully able to understand how they worked and how they were used during World War II. In the case BP will have to close the future of these two rebuilt machines will be put in jeopardy.

BP is about much more than buildings; it is also about people, people who year after year have struggled to keep BP alive, doing voluntary work as visitor guides and helping out on the rebuild projects. Gives freely from their time and their savings. They deserve better.

bombardierJune 5, 2008 10:29 AM

I've launched a beta-ish website at:

http://www.savebletchleypark.com

Early stages but if anyone has any input then please fill in the form on the site or click the standard e-mail link at the bottom of any of the pages. Link ideas would be especially useful.

Notes:
@Gareth - Thanks for the clarification on the link - having spoken to them it's a recent addition so it may not have been there when I checked.
@Carnadine - I have credited you with the creation of the bones of the letters available on the site, hope that's OK with you ;-)
@Jon - I know you registered the .org domain but if you want to point it at my site feel free.

SaxonJune 5, 2008 1:56 PM

I don't know if anyone is still following this, but I was able to contact the curator of the Perot Systems computer history collection, and received an enthusiastic response. Apparently Mr. Perot Jr. is funding the new science museum here in Dallas, with an eye towards education and computer history, and the curator recognized the value of Bletchley Park. She will be briefing both Mr. Perot (Sr. presumably), and the museum board about funding or some form of partnership (it would be kind of hard to move Bletchley here to the US, and I don't know that the UK would appreciate that anyway). I will provide any followup news if I have it.

Peter WescombeJune 6, 2008 8:28 AM

In January,1991, started the campaign to save Bletchley Park from becoming a housing site. With no govermnment assistance ( a petition to No. 10 was turned down flat) the little group I assembled fought tooth and nail to stop the development of this unique site. Still without major support the Bletchley Park trust is doing all that it can to preserve the site for the nation. Little did I think that , seventeen years later, we would still be asking for support.

mkvfJune 11, 2008 7:34 AM

Rather than Bill Gates, someone should ask Steve Jobs. Apple logo is a Turing reference after all.

Alan SealyFebruary 5, 2010 5:47 PM

This work gave us the world's first programmable computer and shortened the war by 2 years .. it has to be worth preserving as a National Treasure. It should be on every school curriculum and kids of today in the UK need to see the site and understand what went on there.

I found the place amazing - never seen anything like it and I'm a computer expert.

The National Museum of Computing is also very rewarding and brought back loads of fond memories of ZX 80 !

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