It shortened World War II by years and saved countless thousands of lives, but now the UK’s famous code-breaking centre of Bletchley Park has been gripped by a financial crisis of historic proportions. Or has it?
The Milton-Keynes-based computing museum says it faces a £1 million ($2 million) bill to repair the roof on its main Victorian mansion building, while some of the huts in which Axis codes were once deciphered by world famous mathematicians are said to be falling apart.
Its management – who point out that the centre consumes no public subsidy of any kind – are on the hunt for more funding, with the Heritage Lottery Fund in their sites.
Otherwise, the museum depends on selling conference facilities, hosting weddings, and persuading the public to turn up and buy tickets for tours. The latter has been going well – visitor numbers are up 40 percent in two years.
So tight is money said to be that Bletchley Park’s public relations company even trumpets the fact that it carries out its services for nothing, an unheard of concession in the industry that normally prides itself on sky-high fees.
But is this really a case of ‘financial crisis, what financial crisis?’ Nissan hut blocks A and E were recently turned into a Science and Innovation centre, while block B – hut 8 in this part of the site once housed Alan Turing himself – was restored by the museum’s charity, the Bletchley Park Trust.
The roof might leak, but Bletchley Park as a whole appears to be in reasonable health. While headlines have led on the crisis, centre head Simon Greenish played down wilder predictions of closure.
“The press has been a little over dramatic. We are having to invest scarce resources into the ageing buildings,” he said in an email to Computerworld UK's sister website Techworld. “Whilst this is clearly challenging for us, we are certainly not scaling back, in fact the opposite, we have higher visitor numbers than ever and are developing plans to ensure that the museum is developed into one of international status.”
An annual season ticket for Bletchley Park can be had for a very reasonable £10.