FORT MEADE, Md. — Even though the National Cryptologic Museum (NCM) is undergoing major renovations in preparation for its highly anticipated opening later this year, members of the public can still catch a glimpse of some of the museum’s most prized artifacts.
Twenty NCM artifacts, including a famous German Enigma cipher machine and other cryptanalysis devices, are on display at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley, Calif. The contributions are part of the “Secrets of WWII” temporary exhibit, taking place from April 2 to October 9.
“We have some of the rarest cryptologic artifacts in the world and having them at other museums is proof of the importance of our collection,” NCM collections manager Spencer Allenbaugh said.
NCM’s items are being shared alongside more than a hundred real and very rare artifacts gathered from museums and private collections from across the globe. The exhibit digs deeper into the era’s guarded technologies, while showcasing less commonly known stories of valor, recently released declassified material, and some of the strange stories surrounding the Second World War.
“We have items in our collection we may one day want to put on display, we have items that we want to put on display immediately, and we have a menu of items that we loan out — because the best way to get the word out of our existence is to have our artifacts on display at other museums,” NCM Director Vince Houghton said. “The NCM is proud to be part of the Reagan Museum’s unique exhibit.”
The Reagan Library is a repository of presidential records from the administration of President Reagan, the 40th president of the United States. It’s the latest site to showcase artifacts from NCM, which has loaned items to more than 37 institutions around the world over the last five years, according to NCM staff.
An Army M-209 cipher machine, a Hagelin C-38 field cipher machine, and other smaller items, are part of NCM’s contributions to the Reagan Library’s exhibit. The loaned artifacts represent the use of code-making and code-breaking devices used during WWII.
“Loaning our artifacts to other museums is not only great networking between museum officials, but it is also an advertisement,” Allenbaugh said. “Each artifact we have displayed at other museums has a plaque that identifies it as one of ours. If someone is interested in that artifact then it points them in our direction.
“The loans have been beneficial in creating a network of museum professionals that can assist in research and/or loan the NCM artifacts for use, as well,” he added.