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Did twitter save bletchley park?

Did twitter save bletchley park?



Bletchley Park is the historic site of secret British codebreaking activities during World War II and birthplace of the modern computer. The work carried out there is said to have shortened WWII by ...

Bletchley Park is the historic site of secret British codebreaking activities during World War II and birthplace of the modern computer. The work carried out there is said to have shortened WWII by two years, saving possibly 22 million lives.

The Park is now a museum, with a 26 acre site, many exhibitions and working rebuilds of machines such as the Colossus, a forerunner of today's computers, invented to mechanise codebreaking. The museum is staffed by a 75% volunteer workforce and is grossly underfunded compared to its historical importance.

Dr Sue Black visited Bletchley Park in July 2008, and she was so appalled at the state of decay of this important site that she started a campaign to get the true historic value of the site recognised and to save it from being lost to the nation. She sent a letter to the UK broadsheet newspaper The Times signed by 97 eminent UK computer scientists, which was published and highlighted in BBC television and radio news broadcasts.

Following traditional media coverage, a blog was established, and then social media (particularly Twitter) used to great effect to raise awareness and support for the campaign. Campaign efforts have received national coverage on television, on radio, and in the press and have contributed to the Park recently receiving £4.6 million funding from the UK Heritage Lottery Fund.

In this lecture, Simon Greenish, Director of Bletchley Park, will describe the history of Bletchley Park from the Domesday Book through to the present day and gives an insight into its fundamental contribution to the ending of World War Two.

Dr Sue Black will describe the campaign to save Bletchley Park, exploring the effectiveness of traditional vs. social media, highlighting how the use of social media has contributed greatly to campaign success. Since the Saving Bletchley Park campaign started, visitor numbers have increased, along with public awareness of the contribution of the site to world heritage and the history of the computer.

This public lecture is part of the Computer Science Athena Swan initiative to promote women in science.



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  • Set up BCSWomen 2001 when finishing my PhD, an online network which gave women in computing somewhere to talk to each other. It can sometimes be isolating being a women in a techy area.
  • Went to Bletchley Park as Chair of BCSWomen and discovered that more than 5000 women worked there! Raised funds for the Women of Station X project.
  • http://www.zdnet.co.uk/news/security-management/2008/03/12/recognising-bletchley-parks-unsung-heroines-39365985/10/#top I spoke about the importance of valuing and recognising womens contribution at Bpark Simon spoke about the financial situation that Bpark were in, on a knife edge. At the launch of the Women of Station X project I talked about why I wanted to make sure that the women that worked at Bletchley Park were recognised for their contribution
  • http://www.zdnet.co.uk/news/it-strategy/2008/05/13/bletchley-park-faces-bleak-future-39415278/ On 1 st July I went up to a reception at Bpark, did a tour and found out all about the amazing work done there, how it had shortened the war by 2 years saving 22 million lives
  • I got upset about the fact that somewhere so fundamentally important was in financial difficulties, I went away determined to help out
  • I set up a blog dedicated to saving Bletchley Park: http://savingbletchleypark.org/ I emailed all Heads and Profs of computing in the UK when I got home, asking them to sign the No 10 petition to save Bletchley Park The response was amazing, there was so much support. John Turner and I put together a letter to the Times, 97 Hods and Profs signed it 
  • Determined to get publicity for Bletchley I contacted all the journalists that I knew telling them I had a good story. Rory Cellan Jones agreed and interviewed me at Bpark, the interview was on the BBC news, Today program, BBC America and elsewhere I got hundreds of emails of support
  • I realised the potential of Twitter for raising awareness and forming a community around Bletchley Park, In Jan 2009 Sizemore and Jamillah came to a talk that Capt Jerry Roberts was giving at UCL about his time at Bpark. The next day I took social media gurus @Documentally @Sizemore and @Jemimah_Knight up to Bletchley Park to help me persuade them that using social media was a good idea. Christian set up the @bletchleypark account
  • After using twitter for a bit I realised that it was a good place to find interested and influential people. One evening I saw a pic on Twitter of Stephen Fry stuck in a lift at Centrepoint and thought to myself.. Stephen Fry, I ’m sure he would be interested in helping Bletchley Park! I googled him and found supportive quotes. Yes!. Luckily he was following me, so I sent him a few DMs asking for help. The next morning he tweeted about my blog and I got 8k hits instead of the usual 50!
  • It was a great day for all of us at Bpark when S Fry came up for the day
  • One of the best things about being involved with Bpark has been getting to know the veterans. On the evening before this photo was taken I was at the veterans annual reunion dinner, we had some very interesting conversations which included nicking the vicars bicycle and low flying planes over Woburn Abbey ;))
  • One thing that I really wanted to do was get Bletchley Park known on the international museum circuit and get museum staff connected into that network. To do that I suggested that we write a paper about how we had used twitter to build up a community of interest around Bpark
  • When our paper was accepted for the conference I realised that we had no funds to pay to go there. Followers on Twitter persuaded me that it would be a good thing to set up a just giving page to ask for donations for us to go and present the paper.
  • These are the great people who gave us £2.5k to go to Denver, where we met loads of museum people from the UK, and networked with them ;))
  • The Turing papers came on sale in November 2010. I saw Gareth Halfacree tweeting that he had set up a just giving page, I checked on it a week before the papers were up for sale and saw that it had raised £20k. An amazing amount but not enough to buy the papers. I approached Google VP Megan Smith after a talk she had given asking for help. Simon Meacham from Google got in touch coincidentally the next day via twitter. Between them they got $100k from google in 4 days over thanksgiving weekend. An amazing achievement  I blogged about it http://drblack.posterous.com/turing-papers-saved-for-bletchley-park. Many thanks to Google for giving a fabulous $100k towards the purchase 
  • The Turing papers were finally bought for Bletchley Park in Feb 2011 and unveiled this week by James May
  • In 2011 Robert Llewellyn got in touch asking me if I would like to be a guest in his car for Carpool. We discussed by email for some time where he could take me to, and it only dawned on me after a few weeks that our destination could be Bpark. Doh!
  • Google funded fab garden party at Bpark to raise funds, raising over £10k! 400 people came despite the horrendous weather. Google ’ s Simon Meacham who engineered the $100k Google donation for the Turing papers flew in from India for the day to attend!
  • Iain: put these two slides at the end?
  • Iain: put these two slides at the end?

Did twitter save bletchley park? Did twitter save bletchley park? Presentation Transcript

  • Did Twitter save Bletchley Park? 7th March 2012
  • Content A Brief HistorySimon Greenish - Previous CEO Bletchley Park Trust How Social Media Helped Bletchley Park Dr Sue Black Future Plans Iain Standen - CEO Bletchley Park Trust
  • A Brief History• Arguably one of the most important sites of 20C• Codebreaking in WW2 made huge impact on outcome of war• First operating computer Colossus developed to break high grade German code -electronic age started at Bletchley Park• Story kept secret until 1975• Struggled to survive 1992 - 2010• Now recognised as a site of truly international importance
  • The Mathematics of Enigma• Set-up from code book• 3 rotors from 5 = 10 choices• The order = 6 choices 6 x 10 = 60• Ring settings – 26 x 26 x 26 = 17,576• 17,576 x 60 = 1,054,560• ‘Stecker board’ with ten leads: 10 from 13 (26/2) = 150,000,000,000,000• 150,000,000,000,000 x 1,054,560 =• 158,184,000,000,000,000,000:1• Chances of winning the National Lottery?• ~14,000,000:1
  • Army & Air Force Huts 6 and 3
  • Naval Huts 8 and 4
  • Block A
  • Colossus – January 1944 onwards
  • Why did Germany never realise?• UK “need to know” basis – 30 people with full knowledge• Compartmentalisation of Bletchley Park – BP workers did not know• No action taken unless it could be explained through other means
  • Visit of HM The Queen accompanied by HRH The Duke of Edinburgh – July 2011
  • The Challenges• Trust inherited 70 buildings – many large and in poor condition• Inadequate funding – huge operating and maintenance costs• The need to increase profile
  • How Social Media Helped Bletchley Park Dr Sue Black
  • Photo by @Jemimah_Knight Photo by @Documentally
  • Photos by @Documentally
  • Photos by @Ade_Oshineye
  • The Future
  • Project NEPTUNE 2012 - 2014
  • Block CDetailed Views
  • §The Huts – With and without bomb blast walls
  • Vision In the 5 -10 year timescale Bletchley Park will become a world class museum and heritage site, renown throughout the world for its key role in theSecond World War and its position as the birthplaceof the modern computer. It will be experiencing the levels of visitors anticipated in the current HLF business case (~ 250,000 per annum) and its operating costs will be self – sustained. It will alsohouse facilities that continue to place Bletchley Park as much at the heart of technical innovation today as it was in the Second World War.
  • What *you* can do........3. Talk to people about Bletchley Park and encouragethem to visit (only £12 for an annual pass)5. What are you good at that could bring attention orfunds to Bletchley Park? Organise a fundraising eventfor us?3. Follow @bletchleypark , @BParkCEO and@Dr_Black on Twitter, search term #bpark4. Let’s Build a Bletchley Park for the future thatrecognises the international importance of the site www.bletchleypark.org.uk
  • Did save Bletchley Park?  Any Questions? 