UK National Museum of Computing trustees publish damning letter about treatment by Bletchley Park trust

Here's some further detail on yesterday's disturbing news about the Bletchley Park trust's management of the museum -- firing volunteers with decades of service with no notice, evicting collections, and doing everything it can to separate the Bletchley Park exhibits from the National Museum of Computing, which is on the Bletchley site and pays a substantial rent to the trust.

Now the trustees of the National Museum of Computing -- which contains a replica of the Colossus II and the Tunny, early computers that played a key role in Bletchley's wartime history -- have written an open letter detailing their grievances against the Bletchley Trust, which appears to be doing everything it can to marginalise and exclude the National Museum and its exhibits.

I'm a donor to Bletchley and the NMOC, and was a member of the Bletchley Friends until recently. The National Museum of Computing is an important facility that complements Bletchley's own exhibits, and without which, Bletchley is much poorer. The Bletchley Trust's repudiation of the people and institutions that kept the site open and operational, saving it from ruin, is a disgrace. Even worse, of course, was the business of surrendering editorial control of its exhibits to corporate sponsors, but there's something especially contemptible about gratuitous cruelty that goes beyond a mere breach of intellectual integrity.

The National Museum of Computing is an independent charity on the Bletchley Park estate. It occupies Block H, a hugely significant part of Bletchley Park since it is the home of Colossus and the world's first purpose-built computer centre. For these premises TNMOC must pay to the Bletchley Park Trust very substantial rent and utilities amounting to more than £100,000 per year.

TNMOC is very much opposed to the fragmentation of Bletchley Park currently being undertaken by the Bletchley Park Trust. One facet of this fragmentation is the removal of TNMOC's Colossus and Tunny Galleries from Bletchley Park Trust tours and the isolation of historic Block H. TNMOC trustees are disappointed that Colossus Rebuild is not to be interpreted to the public as an integral part of the Bletchley Park story as envisaged in the Bletchley Park Trust's successful Heritage Lottery Fund bid.

Our records show that the numbers of Bletchley Park visitors coming to Block H to see the Colossus Rebuild are declining as a direct result of Bletchley Park Trust actions. Today most Bletchley Park Trust visitors miss the key experience of seeing the Colossus Rebuild and the Tunny machine in action and thereby miss out on key working exhibits representing the outstanding pinnacle of the World War II code-breaking story.

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. 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.

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. This can be achieved by ensuring that all stakeholders are properly consulted and represented in the revitalisation of the conservation area that constitutes the whole of Bletchley Park. The need for change, sensitively managed and involving all stakeholders, is essential to ensure the future of a vibrant Bletchley Park which will be inspiring for young people and future generations.

"Deciphering dissent" at Bletchley Park. TNMOC trustees' statement.

(Thanks, Bill!)

Notable Replies

  1. Generally under UK law an employer must give a weeks notice for each year worked up to twelve weeks notice. Likewise a worker is entitled to have a written contact of employment even if they work on a casual basis for more than a year. So if someone has been volunteering for many years I'd be surprised if it could be lawful for Bletchley park to just close the door on them and tell them to leave on the spot. I wonder how a 'wrongful dismissal / unfair dismissal' claim would play out in the case where the volunteer is not paid a salary but still works for the organisation. My guess is the volunteers could sue for their unpaid wages which should be at least the UK minimum, and for their unfair and wrongful dismissal, and that they would win at a tribunal automatically. They should explore if that is possible, if only to teach the management at Bletchley park some manners.

  2. I finally managed to get to Bletchley late last year and found the place to be a confusing mess with no one really giving you any idea what was there or wasn't. Okay they are volunteers but it was clear even then that the management didn't want people finding their way to the computing museum as there where any signs or clear indications of what was there. It was literally here is you ticket have fun if you can find it.

    It was a truly weird experience. I want to go back to make sure I get into the museum of computing just to annoy the Bletchley trust.

  3. Kimmo says:

    I thought this comment in the other thread was potentially the most astute observation there...

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