HP to Liberate Bletchley Archive
Wednesday, 09 June 2010

An initiative on the part of HP to provide help to digitise a vast archive of documents held at Bletchley Park, the site of the UK's main counter-intelligence decryption activities during World War II, is making a wealth of new data accessible.


Starting in the summer of 2010, Hewlett Packard is donating a Scanning and Document Management solution that will enable Bletchley Park, the UK's wartime code-breaking headquarters to bring its archive of documents into the digital age.

The documents include communication transcripts, communiqués, memoranda, photographs and other material tracing and referencing some of the most significant events of World War II.

Digitising the archive will help preserve its records for future generations and give members of the general public the first ever chance to easily search stories and material on historical events documented in the archive, as well as provide a new opportunity for academics and educators.




The materials housed at Bletchley Park's National Code Centre, located in Buckinghamshire, England, document the activities undertaken by the thousands of people who worked at Bletchley Park during the war, intercepting, decrypting and analysing Axis forces' movements and intentions which were shared using the famous Enigma machine.

The Axis powers' absolute belief that the Enigma code was unbreakable, and the subsequent code-breaking at Bletchley Park, can't be understated in the role of the Allies winning the war. The high-level intelligence produced through these activities by under-cover mathematicians and military operatives at Bletchley Park—codenamed Ultra—is credited with having determined many of the key outcomes of the conflict. It is also credited with shortening the war by an estimated two years, probably saving countless millions of lives in the process.

As well as tracing Britain's innovative code-breaking feats against the Axis powers during the War, the Bletchley Park site is home to, amongst others, the story of the legendary Alan Turing, father of the modern computer; the achievements of multiple spies and spymasters; and some of the technology, represented by the Enigma, Bombe rebuild, and Colossus machines, which heralded the development of the modern computer and the start of the information age.

Digitising the Archive

The archive at Bletchley Park's National Code Centre currently exists entirely in paper format - most of it difficult to view or handle; and generally inaccessible by the general public. Only limited access is allowed to the archive by academics and educators under strict supervision.

The archive comprises many hundreds of thousands of documents which were found in near-derelict condition by a group of volunteers nearly twenty years ago. In the last ten years, the volunteers have dedicated thousands of hours to meticulously filing, indexing and cross-referencing the material in the Park's archive building.

In partnership with HP, the digitisation process will involve not only the digital scanning of Bletchley Park's vast archive but also the cataloguing, management and storage of the material in digital format so that it can be easily accessed and viewed by the public on digital platforms such as the Web.



Expected to take between three and five years, the project will involve a wide range of technology that includes HP scanners, multi-function printers, document management software and the IT backbone that will ensure the secure cataloguing and storage of all the information.

The digitised archive will offer a unique insight into some of the last century's most defining historical events, including key milestones of World War II that are of great historical interest. 




Laura Seymour, HP UK commented,

The really exciting bit for us is not just the preservation of the historic and unique documents in the Bletchley archive, but also the fact that it enables them to be accessible further down the line to the general public, not just in the UK but also across the world.

A video outlining the scope of the project and the equipment being dontated is available on the HP site



Related articles:

Bletchley Park - site of national (UK) importance


Alan Turing's ACE



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