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back to article Battle of Bletchley Park: TNMOC chief calls for review of museums' Mexican standoff

The National Museum of Computing has called for an independent review in a bid to solve a long-running dispute with the Bletchley Park Trust - chaired by ex-MI6 chief (or "C") Sir John Scarlett, famous for overseeing production of the dossier which took Britain to war in Iraq. Tim Reynolds, chairman of the TNMOC trustees, has …

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Oh the irony

Seems it was ever thus, even back in period there was open hostilities between some of those at Bletchley Park and Tommy Flowers and his reckless approach to the use of valves. Seems even the success of Colossus can't quell hostilities.

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Mushroom

Re: Oh the irony

"Gentlemen! You can't fight in here! This is the War Room!"

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So, what unreasonable demands did TNMOC make regarding ticketing? Its the first time I've heard this accusation, and it seems really odd when everything else has implied it's BPT being hits.

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Paris Hilton

Ego?

Reads like a lot of sensitive egos on the go to me.

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Thumb Down

"The Bletchley Park Trust (BPT) is the custodian of the site and regards its tenant, The National Museum of Computing (TNMOC) as part of the Bletchley Park family," the Trust said.

That's the most condescending BS I've ever heard in my life.

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And Bletchley Park Trust sees itself as the daddy of the family!

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Unhappy

nah it's fine...your typical family.

Charge them accommodation fee's that almost send them bankrupt, whilst sponging off their work to redecorate your own rooms; if they misbehave, simply erect a fence to stop people visiting them and them tell the outside would it's all their fault.

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Anonymous Coward

I agree, what a load of bollocks...

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I wrote to the Trust last month about the "Disneyland" orientation and the problems with the Museum, and here is the answer I got:

Many thanks for taking the trouble to write to us. I am very sorry that you were upset by the reports carried in the media which I hope to reassure you were largely false.

I am sorry that the highly inaccurate and misleading report carried by the BBC caused you such concern. In particular, the very selective extracts from Iain Standen’s interview created a completely false impression of what is occurring and, more importantly, why.

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 Trust in the Education department, providing tours for school groups.

The Trust is enormously grateful to its army of volunteers, without whom it could not offer a personal, knowledgeable service to visitors. The Trust is currently investing in high quality training to further improve visitors’ experience as the huge, much-needed, Heritage Lottery Funded £8 million restoration project approaches completion. This project will bring many historic buildings on the site back to a state of good repair and create an inspiring experience for its ever-increasing numbers of visitors. This will create a world class museum and heritage site which is a fitting memorial to the heroic Codebreakers of Bletchley Park making the site much more sustainable and accessible to growing numbers of visitors.

It should be made absolutely clear that The National Museum of Computing remains available to any visitor to Bletchley Park who wishes to visit it. The story of breaking the German’ Fish’ Ciphers, which includes the story of the birth of Colossus, is one that is told in the Bletchley Park Museum, and visitors are encouraged to visit The National Museum of Computing to see the replica Colossus and Tunny machines.

In 2012, in response to adverse visitor feedback, regarding the number of different charges levied within Bletchley Park, the Bletchley Park Trust proposed to The National Museum of Computing a single ticketing solution whereby the Bletchley Park Trust would charge an admission fee, which would be uplifted to include the Colossus gallery charge (£2 for adults and £1 for concessions and groups). This uplift would have been paid directly to The National Museum of Computing for every visitor (without any administration or handling charges) so that The National Museum of Computing would have been able to glean a substantial income from visitors to the Bletchley Park Trust Museum.

This offer resulted in lengthy negotiations which ultimately proved inconclusive, and both sides agreed to operate independently. 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.

The new visitor centre on site will help receive all visitors and allow them to consider how they would like to see the site, and which areas to visit. It does not replace the museum or any of its exhibits. I hope you will come and see for yourself that the site is being restored faithfully as a fitting memorial to the heroes of Bletchley Park.

Please see our updated official statement here.

h ttp://www.bletchleypark.org.uk/news/v.rhtm/Statement_of_Facts-757580.h

Yours sincerely,

The Bletchley Park Trust

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Anonymous Coward

I think I can see where the money is going...

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BPT's single ticketing proposal

As I understand Bletchley Park Trust's proposal for "single ticketing", BPT would pocket £15 and the Museum would get £2. But the standard admission charge for the Museum is £5 (£2 just for the Gallery which is all that BPT's single ticketing seems to offer). Would it be a surprise that the Museum would fear a substantial fall in revenue?

Methinks they'll now be spending some of that £8M Lottery funding on a better PR agency......

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PJI
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Headmaster

Are these people English speakers?

". ..would charge an admission fee, which would be UPLIFTED to include the Colossus gallery charge (£2 for adults and £1 for concessions and groups). This UPLIFT would …."

Is this newspeak for "increased" or "raised"? Is this an indication of the honesty of the rest of this letter?

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change could be difficult?

It’s taken less than two years to degrade to the current situation. Seems to me like change is relatively easy. Compromise is what is going to be difficult.

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Megaphone

"Change is necessary to..."

WARNING: weasel-words and spin ahead!

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Wuh?

Does anyone visit Bletchley for the dry and boring war museum? TNMOC is the jewel in the crown - the rest takes about half an hour to look around tops. I can only imagine breaking the link must have decimated their visitor numbers.

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Re: Wuh?

Suggested going to the museum of computing a few weeks ago, but 'er indoors declined saying that a work colleague had recently been and that he'd said not to bother as you don't get to see any computers or encryption gizmos. He'd been told by a member of the Trust staff that the Museum of Computing was closed, and he had to make do with the Trust part of the site. So it seems some of the Trust staff are being *very* deceitful.

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Re: Wuh?

To be fair to the BPT personnel, it may be because your friend visited on a day that TNMOC is closed.

TNMOC is normally open on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday afternoons, plus a guided tour on Tuesdays. In addition, the museum aims to open on public holidays and all week outside school term time.

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Re: Wuh?

To be fair to the BPT personnel, it may be because your friend visited on a day that TNMOC is closed.

He went at the weekend.

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Difficult to see

What exactly is going on but so far all the signs suggest that:

1) Someone thought they've found an opportunity for building a little private commercial venture at the public risk and expense; and

2) They've put a military* martinet in charge who believes that problems can be ordered to go away and if they don't - you just give them 10 demerits and order again, somewhat louder.

No surprise, the 2 will likely prove to be the downfall of the 1.

*) - it's not that such people cannot be found in all walks of life but they tend to survive longer in the military as their shortcomings are masked by the army procedures and hierarchy.

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Re: Difficult to see

The board is stuffed with people who know zero about computing and quite a lot about 'leisure parks'.

There is no need to look beyond that, the UK is squandering what should be one of it's major achievements.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Difficult to see

"They've put a military* martinet in charge who believes that problems can be ordered to go away and if they don't - you just give them 10 demerits and order again, somewhat louder."

I see you know the type. I was at a company - in the '90s - where the ex-Pay Corps company accountant bought them out, then started doing that. Lost that one when I told him to fuck off.

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Anonymous Coward

adverse visitor feedback, regarding the number of different charges levied within Bletchley Park

Must admit I'd been slightly put off visiting Bletchley Park (or TNMOC in particular) when from a quick look at the websites I'd assumed you had to pay to get into the overall Bletchley Park site and then pay again to get into TNMOC. Positive result from the coverage here is I now know I can choose to only go to TNMOC and only need to pay for the bit I want to go to.

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Anonymous Coward

Sir John Scarlett, famous for overseeing production of the dossier

is it that dossier which claimed there was strong, albeit secret, thus unreleasable, evidence Saddam had a massive stash of WMD?

yep.

so, THIS is where Sir Scarlett landed gently after the Iraqi "oops we got it wrong, sorry guv" adventure? And Mr Blair, how's Mr Blair doing these days?

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Silver badge

Re: Sir John Scarlett, famous for overseeing production of the dossier

Tony's busy earning £20 million a year on the rubber chicken circuit, while taking time off to establish peace in the Middle East.

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Silver badge

Re: Sir John Scarlett, famous for overseeing production of the dossier

> while taking time off to establish peace in the Middle East

and how's that working out for him? --checks news-- Okay. Nevermind.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Sir John Scarlett, famous for overseeing production of the dossier

> and how's that working out for him? --checks news-- Okay. Nevermind.

It's working very well. The peace process keeps on going on ... and on ... and on .... The last thing they want is actual peace. Where's the profit in that?

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I'm not surprised

that the 'Trust' (there's a fucking oxymoron for you) "are loath to let its boss Iain Standen talk to the media"

Perhaps they've realised that he's a pretentious bell-end.

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Grow up

I think the many smart people who worked tirelessly at Bletchley to shorten the war and save lives would be horrified with this petty squabbling.

We have something unique in culture and history to show off - a visit should be on the national curriculum.

I feel like putting my parent hat on and going down there and telling them to "knock it off or I will bang your heads together"

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Truly unique

"We have something unique in culture and history to show off - a visit should be on the national curriculum."

I agree. Really, is there anything else in the world like it? I can't think of anyplace else so significant to computing that remains so completely intact. Keeping it whole celebrates its significance. Dividing it does not.

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Unhappy

Re: Grow up

Yup. "Can't we all just get along?" The two museums would seem to this techie to have much in common, one being the historical antecedant of the other. Combining the two museums would seem the natural thing to do. I'm not clear on the justification for keeping them separated.

Perhaps the advice (and perhaps leadership) of someone who has experience successfully running a historical technical museum is needed? The Computer History Museum in California and the NSA Museum in Maryland are great examples of what Bletchley could be.

I have visited Bletchley and it would be a terrible shame to have it turned into a Disneyland cartoon version of what I saw. History should be presented as it was, warts and all. Save the Disney experience for something less important. Clearly, Bletchley and computing are never going to be on Joe Sixpack's "must see" list, no matter how tackily they're presented, so do it right and make it a good value for your intended audience.

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Mushroom

"... chaired by ex-MI6 chief (or "C") Sir John Scarlett "

The review will find that TNMOC has produced weapons of mass destruction which are capable of reaching the Bletchley Park Trust. As such, there will be no choice but to send in troops to shut down TNMOC.

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Roo
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Re: "... chaired by ex-MI6 chief (or "C") Sir John Scarlett "

It is tempting to put the boot into Sir John Scarlett, but at the end of the day I think it is pointless. Scarlett is someone who chose to fabricate and spread lies in order to facilitate an illegal war, I very much doubt he cares what anyone else thinks.

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Re: "... chaired by ex-MI6 chief (or "C") Sir John Scarlett "

Scarlett had his arm twisted by that lovely Campbell chap to 'sex up' his original, factual document. His reward for fawning obeisance was to be made head of MI6.

["C" used to get an honorary naval rank (cf. Commander Bond), so he could have become Captain Scarlett]

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Theme Parks

No doubt Bletchley Park will be turned into a ghastly abomination like Stonehenge or Lands End. Better we bulldoze the whole thing now, rather than it become like either of these sad theme parks.

I notice that the Porthcurno Telegraph Museum is currently being redeveloped. I do hope that this isnt undergoing the theme park transformation as it was excellent when I last visited it ten years ago.

Everything has to be so pre-digested these days in "learning experiences for fee paying schoolchildren" that it actually looks (is) fake. The best museums should always contain some messy random things that challenge the comprehension of the visitors.

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G_R

Hutton

Perhaps there should be another Hutton enquiry - no, wait a minute....

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It's not perfect but the current system of two entry fee's would be fine with a bit more advertising. TNMOC got all my money when I went there last week and the Bletchley Park Trust got nothing. I didn't have to pay for BPT access which I didn't want. I was happy and had a great time at a unique museum.

Problem is, I knew in advance I could do that. The lady in front of me was really angry about not knowing the BP entrance fee didn't cover TNMOC and having paid for that and then being asked to pay to access the museum. I didn't go to the BPT ticket office so I don't know how clear it is that the two are separate but with a bit more marketing or the staff telling people the ticket doesn't cover TNMOC but that you don't need a BPT ticket to go visit TNMOC then everyone would be happy and the park and museum bosses wouldn't have to get along.

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@WhatAboutBob

Two ticketing offices? Oy vey! No wonder things are in their current state.

There should be one ticketing office. It should clearly display the cost and hours of operations for both museums. Maybe a special deal where 1 to 3 pounds gets knocked off the price of buying both tickets and the discount is fairly distributed based on the percentage of the price each museum/tour costs.

As for the tour guide who got shafted for giving "the long tour", somebody in management needs to buy a clue. Granted I'm not likely to be visiting Bletchley Park anytime soon (from this side of the pond the flight takes too long and costs too much for a Saturday trip), but I've had a similar experience. A friend was visiting from out of town. He wanted to see the Annex to the Smithsonian Air and Space museum and made all the arrangements. Our tour guide met us there. He was older than dirt. All of the planes were is some level of dis-assembly because it was the only way to stuff that much gear into the facility. It was hard to see anything clearly. And it was the best tour of my life. The old guy knew every detail about every plane that we could sort of see in the overstuffed storage area. And his eyes were alive as he told you why they were important and details about the restoration and reassembly of the planes. The Annex has moved to a nice new facility where all the planes are properly displayed. But I'll always remember that first tour more fondly.

OK, I get it. Some people don't care about all the tiny details. Fine. Sell a short tour ticket and a long tour ticket. Because some of us do appreciate all the tiny details.

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Having visited both in the past I'm pretty clear that it is only TNMOC that I'll be visiting this year.

Up to now my own website has had links to both. It look like I need to edit it again.

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PJI
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Who, what, why?

Why on earth was such a stupid arrangement for the running of this site made?

It seems tailor made to create problems and increase costs while causing worse management.

Just what qualifications did a rather tarnished security services civil servant have that were thought to suit him to his current role?

Sadly, this is the way the whole country is run; thank heavens I have got options to escape.

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Mexican standoff...

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

There are two adversaries in this tiff... a Mexican standoff requires three.

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Anonymous Coward

Wikipedia says:

"In financial circles, the Mexican standoff is typically used to connote a situation where one side wants something, a concession of some sort, and is offering nothing of value. When the other side sees no value in agreeing to any changes, they refuse to negotiate. Although both sides may benefit from the change, neither side can agree to adequate compensation for agreeing to the change, and nothing is accomplished."

Sounds pretty good description to me.

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Anonymous Coward

"Sounds pretty good description to me."

Sounds like a terrible description to me. Its internally inconsistent: "one side wants something, a concession of some sort, and is offering nothing of value" doesn't match "both sides may benefit from the change".

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Well, Wikipedia is hardly an authoritative source. Even if it were, the traditional meaning of Mexican Standoff is where three armed individuals, each wanting to kill both of the others, are forced to decide which of the two opponents should be targeted first to give the greatest likelihood of self-survival. The possible outcomes are:

1. A kills B who kills C who kills A, all on the first shot. All are dead.

2. A and B fire first at C, then must quickly retarget each other. This time C is always dead, as is the slower of A and B, while the faster survives.

3. Just like scenario 2, except A and B are equally fast and kill each other after mutually killing C. All are dead.

4. A and B fire first at C, but C manages to kill A or B before dying. In this case the sole survivor is never targeted, while C and the other are both dead.

5. None shoot due to uncertainty. All survive.

There are other permutations depending of the relative draw and fire speeds of the compbatants, but the essence of a Mexican Standoff is three adversaries who must either guess correctly who to target first to survive, or decide not to shoot at all. The classic Mexican Standoff is portrayed in the Arch Stanton/Unknown grave scene at the end of The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly (although Blondie has secretly skewed the odds in his favour).

If this term truly has been co-opted by the financial sector for the scenario you describe, then somebody just didn't understand the original, true definition.

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