Under gray skies and spattering rain, officials joined National Security Agency (NSA) leadership Monday to cut the ribbon and officially unveil the newly renovated National Cryptologic Museum (NCM).
In a special ceremony two years in the making, GEN Paul M. Nakasone, Commander, USCYBERCOM, Director, NSA/Chief, CSS, gathered several special visitors inside the museum, which serves as the only fully public museum in the Intelligence Community.
“Of all the Intelligence Community [agencies] that have museums, the only one that is open to the public is the National Security Agency’s,” GEN Nakasone said in his keynote speech. “Think about the meaning that has from the idea of what we do every single day — which is the importance of national security and civil liberty and privacy, and bringing those together. Not an ‘or’ statement but an ‘and’ statement. “That’s what this museum represents.”
Monday’s event took place ahead of the museum’s grand opening to the public at 10 a.m. on Saturday, October 8. Admission is free, and the grand opening will feature special events and activities for the entire family.
The new-look museum features layouts, displays and never-before-seen artifacts that played critical roles in protecting our nation’s national security.
Visitors will find such unique artifacts as an 18th century Jefferson cipher — the oldest true cipher device in the world. In another part of the gallery, the story of the Battle of Midway is featured along with other artifacts showcasing the impressive cryptologic achievements that led to the Allied victory in World War II. One of the galleries is devoted to the 40-year digitization revolution and includes an interactive car that visitors can drive virtually while someone attempts to hack its computer systems.
Some of the museum exhibits are old favorites, such as World War II German Enigma cipher machines, including one used by the German High Command. Also on display is the last remaining cryptanalytic Bombe machine developed by the U.S. that was used to break the Enigma’s codes.
“From the American Revolution to the present day, our exhibits show technology, problem-solving, missions, world changing events,” said NCM Director Vince Houghton. “And, most importantly, the people who make our Nation’s cryptologic history so fascinating and unique.”
The guests, seated in NCM’s Magic Room, were welcomed by Houghton, who praised the efforts of current and previous NCM leadership and staff.
“The museum you’re about to see is more than a product of the untiring efforts of the staff during the past two-and-a-half years,” he said. “It is a culmination of the vision of our predecessors over the past two-and-a-half decades.”
Before introducing GEN Nakasone as keynote speaker, Houghton thanked the Director for empowering the NCM team to “be bold, to take chances, to not be afraid to try something new.” The result of that, he said, was what guests were about to see.
“Welcome to the grand opening — yes, the grand opening, of our National Cryptologic Museum,” GEN Nakasone said. “Next month, we celebrate 70 years as an Agency. I wonder, when Harry Truman signed his name to that declaration, whether he knew the impact this Agency would have to the Nation’s security.”