Simon, Greenish the Director of Bletchley Park, kicked off the day with an update on progress over the last year here at Bletchley. This year has been quite a year. GCHQ has got the government to recognise the people who worked here during the war, with the foreign secretary giving out medals to some of the veterans. The government has also promised a permanent memorial (proposed for either the National Arboretum or Bletchley Park – I’ll let you guess which venue is favoured!).
Simon pointed out that Bletchley is probably one of the hardest up museums in the country, but visitor numbers have been steadily growing over the last four years. This year may see over 120,000 visitors by its end, and the government grant (that had to be spent in four weeks!) has been used to improve the site – to my eye things look an awful lot better here – the car parks and fences are significantly more serviceable!
Bletchley also received a lottery grant which is allowing them to design the new museum. Things have been slowed down a little by the European procurement rules and provesses, and they need to raise around 1 Million pounds (and have a VAT bill to boot!). Hut 6 and Hut 3, the bombe room and Hut 1 are now being restored – one of the veterans quipped that it must be tricky to restore a hut that wasn’t very good in the first place “will you be adding back the smells? …The lighting was awful” . English heritage has been involved in advising on the restoration – the huts were never build to last of course, so it’s all quite a challenge!
There is a superb archive here, but sadly most of it is still boxed up, and not fully catalogued. To process it will be expensive, but there are discussions with HP, who have provided a large amount of state of the art digitising machinery. The challenge now is to get the archive on to a museum database. HP have been very pleased with the results (and the publicity) to date – good on HP!
The mayor or Milton Keynes this year has adopted Bletchley Park as one of two charities for the year. There is one Bletchley Faberge Egg left, and this is being raffled to raise money – which seems a shame – I do hope the winner at least lends it back to Bletchley Park (it is worth around £4,000-£5,000). Today will also see the unveiling of another Enigma machine in the collection.