News | April 12, 2021

National Cryptologic Museum: A Reimagined Experience of Cryptologic History

By Louis J. Leto, National Cryptologic Museum

The National Cryptologic Museum (NCM) is working on overdrive creating a reimagined experience of cryptologic history for first-time and repeat visitors alike.  

This is the largest of three surviving pieces of the Japanese diplomatic ciphering machine the U.S. Army Signal Intelligence Service named PURPLE. NCM featured this one-of-a-kind artifact that was recovered from the wreckage of the Japanese Embassy in Berlin in 1945 during a recent Artifact Spotlight
This is the largest of three surviving pieces of the Japanese diplomatic ciphering machine the U.S. Army Signal Intelligence Service named PURPLE. NCM featured this one-of-a-kind artifact that was recovered from the wreckage of the Japanese Embassy in Berlin in 1945 during a recent Artifact Spotlight
This is the largest of three surviving pieces of the Japanese diplomatic ciphering machine the U.S. Army Signal Intelligence Service named PURPLE. NCM featured this one-of-a-kind artifact that was recovered from the wreckage of the Japanese Embassy in Berlin in 1945 during a recent Artifact Spotlight
Top-View of the PURPLE machine
This is the largest of three surviving pieces of the Japanese diplomatic ciphering machine the U.S. Army Signal Intelligence Service named PURPLE. NCM featured this one-of-a-kind artifact that was recovered from the wreckage of the Japanese Embassy in Berlin in 1945 during a recent Artifact Spotlight
Photo By: NSA Photo
VIRIN: 210412-D-IM742-1001

The museum’s goal is to reopen this summer with completely transformed exhibits, artifacts, and branding.

“The National Cryptologic Museum is being transfigured from a good museum that had cool stuff to a great museum that will awe visitors with some of the best stories history has to tell,” Museum Director Dr. Vince Houghton said. 

NCM staff, painters, construction crews, electricians, plumbers, carpet layers, and carpenters dedicated the past several months to giving the museum a complete makeover, and their work isn’t done. Their efforts have included taking down exhibits and displays, painting walls and display cases, improving the plumbing and electrical power, installing new air handlers, adding a new security system, installing state-of-the-art storage shelving for documents and publications, installing proper environment control equipment for rare artifacts. Even the staff office has been upgraded with modern furniture and telephones.  

Electricians carefully move one of NSA’s first supercomputers
Electricians carefully move one of NSA’s first supercomputers
Electricians carefully move one of NSA’s first supercomputers
Electricians carefully move one of NSA’s first supercomputers
Electricians carefully move one of NSA’s first supercomputers
Photo By: NSA Photo
VIRIN: 210412-D-IM742-1002

“If you read our article on NSA’s website earlier this month, you know that we have centuries old, original books and documents found no place else on the planet,” Dr. Houghton said. “We have one-of-a-kind artifacts that can be found only at the NCM. Some of these have never been on public display,” he added.

NCM Chief Sally Lockley credited many key partners who have played a significant role in making the museum’s transformation a reality. 

“The museum is working as hard and fast as possible to reopen this summer,” Ms. Lockley said. “We’ve had wonderful support from leadership at all levels, Installations & Logistics, and our own support staff in (NSA) Strategic Communications. We want to make sure we do this smartly — moving a 2.5-ton cryptanalytic Bombe, for example, takes a lot of thought and planning,” she said. 

Throughout the NCM’s temporary closure, the staff has found creative ways to share their treasured artifacts and historical books with the public by hosting Library and Artifact Spotlights on its Facebook page. These short videos give the public a taste of what they will see when the museum reopens.

The next Artifact Spotlight, featuring an original 1939 letter from Baron Oshima, Japan’s ambassador to Germany during WWII, will be presented at noon EDT on April 23.

Look for more articles and videos on NSA’s Press Room and Features pages and social media as the NCM continues its journey – dubbed Operation Makeover – toward sharing the unique history of the “old” in an entirely “new” way. 

Artifact display cases get a fresh coat of paint.
Artifact display cases get a fresh coat of paint
Artifact display cases get a fresh coat of paint.
Artifact display cases get a fresh coat of paint
Artifact display cases get a fresh coat of paint
Photo By: NSA Photo
VIRIN: 210412-D-IM742-1003

For more information about the NCM and its programs, please call 301-688-5849, or email crypto_museum@nsa.gov.