The National Cryptologic Museum - A Museum Like No Other

What is “Cryptology” anyway? The term has both defensive and offensive aspects. It is the term we use to refer to the arts and sciences involved in both protecting one’s information from unintended recipients, and also in exploiting an adversaries’ information. There are practical needs for cryptology in many segments of today’s information age and there is a colorful history associated with: 1) the evolution of the technologies that have evolved to fill these needs, 2) the people and organizations that have been active in the area, and 3) the importance of some of the results. A unique unclassified look at some of this colorful history is presented in the National Cryptologic Museum.. The museum is indeed unique! It should also be viewed as a long-term work in progress.

There are three major factors that make us optimistic about the future of this museum.

First, there have been significant changes over the last decade in the governmental policy on secrecy. Few will question the legitimate need for security and secrecy in many aspects of both government and industry. However, there is a growing awareness of the costs of excessive secrecy. There are huge volumes of declassified material from the past making slow, but steady, progress toward the public domain. Clearly, simply making the old declassified information available to the public is not enough. There is a real need for research and the application of educational resources in this area. This museum has the potential to grow into a major center for such research and study.

Second, there are new challenges in the production of useful Foreign Intelligence. The leaders of Intelligence Community organizations  are always adjusting their capabilities to include evolving new threats. Our nation’s intelligence activities have often been required to adjust to new demands, and an effective museum can help today’s intelligence professional gain insights and lessons from the past that can provide context and guidance for the decisions that must be made today. Just as important, today’s public must gain increased confidence and improved intuition regarding the fundamental need for, and value of, such Foreign Intelligence activities. Related educational programs that are historically correct and technically accurate are being created to illustrate today’s situation by extrapolating from past examples. This museum has an important role to play in these processes.

Third, there is now a very real and increasing public use of cryptographic techniques. Literally tens of millions of individuals are using public cryptographic tools today; many perhaps without even realizing it. This dynamic marketplace makes cryptology a much more publicly interesting topic than it was even a decade ago. There is a natural question regarding the proper role of our government in the public use of some cryptologic techniques. Properly designed museum educational programs can prove to be an asset in creating new institutional relationships that help improve public understanding and trust among the participants.

Given these and other factors, our Museum Foundation believes that it is important to continue to support the three basic missions of the Museum:

       To commemorate the capabilities and contributions of both individuals and
organizations that have created the nation’s cryptologic capability to date,

       To educate both professionals and the general public regarding the techniques
employed by cryptologic activities and their value to the nation, and

       To stimulate the imagination of all those who participate in Museum programs
in order to enhance our future cryptologic capability in ways that we cannot predict.

We are convinced that we are participating in a very worthwhile enterprise. We trust that you will agree with us that this is indeed “A Museum Like No Other”, and will join us in our efforts to help it grow.