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Exhibition Secret Messages
1 October 2008 - 29 February 2009

Between 1 October 2008 and 29 February 2009, Crypto Museum helped organising a large exhibition at the Dutch Ham Radio Museum Jan Corver in The Netherlands. Numerous objects from the collection of the Jan Corver Museum, the Crypto Museum and many others, were brought together for this unique five-month event.
The exhibition, named Secret Messages, showed numerous cipher machines, spy radios, direction finding equipment and much more, spanning over 70 years of history; from before WWII to the present.

Despite the fact that Jan Corver is a fairly small museum, the exhibition attracted much national and international attention, making it the most successful event yet, with visitor numbers being more than doubled during this period. The image on the right shows the Enigma display in the foreground.

A large collection of cipher machines was displayed, such as three different Enigma variants, many accessories, several Hagelin models, the Swiss Nema, the Russian Fialka, the American SIGABA, etc. We were even able to show modern cipher machines that had been in use until recently. Some of these machines were shown to the public for the very first time.
   Most people visited the exhibition especially to see the historical Enigma machines and some very rare accessories. Most of them were surprised to see that Enigma is not a single machine, but a whole range of different machines, and that sales of Enigma machines started long before WWII.

The extremely rare Zählwerk Enigma, built in 1928, attracted a lot of attention. And on more than one occasion, it had to be taken out of the display case, to give a full demonstration on this 80+ year old device.
In the picture above, the three Enigma machines are shown side by side. From front to back: Enigma I (used by the Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe), Enigma M4 (used exclusively for the German U-Boats) and the Zählwerk Enigma (also known as Enigma G).

But Enigma wasn't the only cipher machine on display. A large section was dedicated to the small Hagelin machines, such as the M-209 that was used by the US Army during WWII. Also on display was the Nema (an Enigma replica by the Swiss) and the little known American SIGABA (also from WWII) that has never been on public display in The Netherlands before.

A large section of the exhibition was dedicated to the Cold War, a time of great political tension between East and West. Large tape-operated cipher machines, such as the Siemens M-190 and the Philips Ecolex 4. Machines that are unbreakable, even today, because of the use of one-time tapes (OTT).
View into the museum Museum Jan Corver. Enigma display in the foreground. Museum Jan Corver. Enigma display in the foreground. Many Hagelin machines Cold War devices such as spy radios and concealed cameras Philips Ecolex 4 Russian spy radio sets Moder cipher machines and bug tracers

Living museum
In order to bring history back to life, many exhibits were not hidden behind glass, but were shown in full working condition. Most machines were demonstrated on request and some were even operated around the clock by museum volunteers or by 'fanatic' visitors.
One example is the famous WWII B2 spy radio set, that was used every Saturday to make real life amateur connections, using the museum's special radio call sign PI9JC.

The image on the right shows the B2 spy radio set, operated by museum volunteer Louis van Erck, once a professional radio operator in the Dutch Airforce. During the exhibition he made contact with numerous radio amateurs both in The Netherlands and abroad. Louis appears to have a 'multi-tasking' mind, as he can give and take morse code whilst talking to his audience.

Apart from the B2, many war-time receivers were connected to the mains and could be demonstrated within minutes, and the same was true for the majority of cipher machines on display. When turned on, the sound from the Siemens M-190 tape-operated cipher machines would fill the room, as did the Russian Fialka M-125, that appears to be still in use in some coutries...
Radio jammer used by the Germans during WWII Three Enigma machines side by side The WWII Type 3 Mark II (B2) spy radio set The B2 in operation by Louis van Erck (PA0LCE) The Russian Fialka M-125 in operation Siemens T-52 Geheimschreiber Siemens M-190 OTT (mixer) machine Siemens M-190 in use

Museum Jan Corver is a fairly small museum in the south of The Netherlands. It is mainly visited by (Dutch) radio amateurs and is otherwise rather unknown. Although the museum issued numerous press-releases in order to bring the exhibition to the attention of the public, the national press didn't pick it up at all (!) and we had to rely on the amateur radio magazines and the internet.
In the first opening weekend, we had only 8 visitors. A week later, this number had doubled and after that, it really took off. Despite the non-existing press coverage, word-of mouth had done its job and people from all over the country found their way to the museum.

Surprisingly, they were not just radio amateurs, but also people from many other backgrounds and professions. Men and women. Adults and children. Individuals and schools. They all found something of their interest. And they all liked the hands-on demonstrations.

After the exhibition had ended, the ballance showed that the number of visitors had nearly trippled during this period. We should like to thank to the museum volunteers who, like ourselves, were present every Saturday to give guided tours and demonstrations. We are also indebted to Cor Moerman, the museum curator, and his wife Corry, for their help and hospitality during these five months.

Video impression
Below is a 4 minute video impression of the exhibition in HD wquality. It was recorded on a Canon HF10 camera and edited with iMovie on a Mac. Although the exhibition was not complete when the video was recorded, it should give a good impression of what we were showing.
Museum Guides
A special booklet was released as a museum guide for this exhibition. Its describes most of the equipment that was on display, divided over three periods: WWII, the Cold War and the present. It's a 42-page full-colour spiral-bound booklet with many photographs, and it's available both in Dutch and English from the shop. It is also available from Museum Jan Corver.
Further information

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