Our Foxes excel at both work and play, which many do by traveling the world and going on exciting adventures. Whether we are enjoying a family vacation, attending a work-related conference, or taking a local daytrip, we love visiting and learning from historical sites and museums that teach us about different types of technologies. In this blog, check out some of our favorites, including some which don’t require you to leave your home.
If there’s one thing we know about at Bishop Fox, it’s computers! Although we do our work on modern computers, many Foxes can point to their first exposure to computers occurring on a Commodore 64, Tandy 1000, ZX Spectrum, or Apple II.
If you’re feeling nostalgic for your favorite childhood electronics, itching to show your kids what existed before smart phones, or are just curious about computer history, make sure to plan a visit to any of these locations.
Computer Museum of America in Roswell, Georgia
What does one do with a collection of over 300,000 artifacts of digital history? If you’re Lonnie Mimms, you share it with the world in a museum. The Computer Museum of America is the largest computer museum on the U.S. East Coast and chronicles the computer technology’s history in a priceless selection of Mimms’s collection and donated artifacts.
The museum’s exhibits include a Timeline of computer history, illustrating the development of computing technology in countless artifacts and a Tribute to Apollo 11, highlighting the NASA computers that brought human life to the moon. The museum also boasts a supercomputing exhibit with over 70 supercomputers including 25 Cray supercomputers – the largest collection in the world.
Vintage Computer Federation Museum in Wall, New Jersey
Want to get a closer look at some historic computers? Look no further than the Vintage Computer Federation’s (VCF) collection located in the InfoAge Science and History Museum. Curated by the VCF Mid-Atlantic chapter, this museum not only displays computer artifacts, but also restores and repairs them. As a result, many of the pieces can be operated by the docents. The museum also hosts an annual Vintage Computer Festival and regular repair workshops.
The VCF museum is only one of more than 15 exhibits at the InfoAge Science and History Museum, a national historic landmark at Camp Evans. As a former U.S. military installation and transatlantic receiving station, Camp Evans played a large role in the development of electronic communications. Honoring the site’s history, the InfoAge Science and History Museum features exhibits about electronic warfare, radio technology, military radar, and military vehicles.
Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California
If your interest in computing stretches beyond vintage into the present day, the Computer History Museum is sure to feed your curiosity. Located in the heart of Silicon Valley, the center of technological innovation, the museum explores computing’s past, present, and future. The Revolution exhibit outlines two millennia of computing more than 1,000 artifacts while its One Word installation offers advice from Silicon Valley leaders to future innovators. Additionally, the museum features an interactive space for visitors to learn how artists are using artificial intelligence (AI) to expand their creativity.
Make sure to check the museum’s schedule ahead of time to catch demonstrations of the IBM 1401 Data Processing System or the Digital Equipment Corporation’s PDP-1.
Not able to visit in person? The Computer History Museum’s website includes virtual tours, recorded oral histories, and a searchable collection archive.
The National Museum of Computing in Bletchley Park, England
The National Museum of Computing (TNMOC) features the world’s largest collection of operational historic computers. Located in Bletchley Park, home to the infamously brilliant World War II codebreakers, the museum explores the development of computing technology from slide rules and the large systems of the mid-20th century to personal computers and embedded software.
Of course, a computing museum in Bletchley Park wouldn’t be complete without covering the Enigma machine. The museum has a working Enigma as well as an operational reconstruction of the Turning-Welchman Bombe, the machine used to break the Enigma’s ciphered messages.
For those of us that can’t make it to England, TNMOC offers a virtual tour and summaries of its exhibits.
Given the increasingly frequent intersection with cybersecurity, it is no surprise that many hackers are also interested in espionage. In fact, many Foxes began their careers serving in the military or U.S. Intelligence Community (IC). These are some of our favorite museums for peeking behind the curtain of national security.
International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C.
With over 1,000 artifacts on public display, the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C., is a treasure trove for anyone interested in international espionage. Spanning from Ancient Rome all the way to present day, the museum traces the history of espionage with artifacts, photos, videos, and interactive displays. The museum’s extensive artifact collection includes an Enigma machine, 14th century Mongol armor, a letter written by Mata Hari, wreckage from the downed U-2 spy plane piloted by Francis Gary Powers, and a microdot camera used in the Cold War.
While learning about spy craft past and present, you can test your spy skills at over fifteen interactive displays. Try to remember your cover story, identify a dead drop, and see how good your code cracking skills are as you make your way through the museum.
SPYSCAPE in New York City, New York
Another espionage-centric museum is SPYSCAPE, an immersive spy museum located in Midtown Manhattan. Part museum and part interactive attraction, SPYSCAPE educates visitors on espionage while assessing their spy skills through its seven primary galleries: Encryption, Deception, Surveillance, Hacking, Cyberwarfare, Special Ops, and Intelligence. Based on their performance through a series of challenges such as navigating a laser tunnel and surveilling CCTV feeds, visitors are assigned one of ten spy roles: spymaster, intelligence analyst, spy catcher, hacker, cryptologist, agent handler, surveillance officer, technical operations, special operations, and intelligence operations. I wasn’t surprised at all that I matched with the hacker role during my visit.
National Cryptologic Museum in Annapolis Junction, Maryland
If you’ve taken an interest specifically in cryptology, look no further than the U.S. National Security Agency’s (NSA) National Cryptologic Museum. Although it began as a museum accessible only to NSA employees, it was opened to the public in 1993, making it the first public museum in the U.S. IC. In 2022, the museum was re-opened following a two-year long renovation project. Concentrating on American cryptologic history, the exhibits highlight historical figures who contributed to the field of cryptography such as George Washington, the history of the NSA, supercomputers, cryptology in World War I and II, and cyber defenses.
Not only does the museum have two Enigma machines that visitors can play with, but it also houses a library of unclassified documents about cryptography and offers free tours led by retired NSA employees. The NSA has also published a series of brief educational videos about the museum and its contents.
Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Museum (Virtual)
The NSA isn’t the only agency in the U.S. Intelligence Community to have a museum. The CIA has its own museum located inside the headquarters compound in Langley, VA. However, this museum has restricted access, so the CIA has developed an online digitized collection of historical national security artifacts in an effort to share more of its history with the public. As of January 2023, over two hundred artifacts can be viewed online, including the editor’s copy of the CIA's first daily summary for the president in 1946, the identification card of the CIA’s first female chief of station officer, and a camera to be worn by a pigeon to collect surveillance images. The museum’s site also includes detailed writeups and videos on topics such as the A-12 OXCART spy plane and America’s first imaging satellite.
Games, Airplanes, and More!
Of course, our interests go way beyond what we do at work, and vacation is the perfect time to expand your horizons. Adults and kids alike are bound to have a blast at some of our favorite STEM museums.
Computerspielemusem (Computer Game Museum) in Berlin, Germany
Amid the historical World War II and Cold War sites in Berlin sits the Computerspielemuseum or, in English, the Computer Game Museum. Exploring the history, impact, and development of computer games, the museum holds over 30,000 artifacts, including every console game system, starting with the 1972 Magnavox Odyssey. Computer afficionados will awe at the replica of the Nimrod, the custom-built computer designed to play Nim, and arcade fans will light up at the 1980s authentic arcade games that can be played by visitors. When I visited the museum in 2017 with my dad he was amazed at the accuracy and nostalgia of his favorite exhibit – a recreation of a 1980s hobby room furnished with a C64.
The museum is a hit with visitors of all ages, but one of the museum’s most famous pieces is limited to those over 18. The PainStation, which requires visitors to sign a waiver, simply has its users play a game of Pong. The cause for the waiver is the punishment; if you lose – your hand is shocked, exposed to high heat, or flogged.
Steven F. Udvar Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia
As cool and awe-inspiring as the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. is, it could be argued that the Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia has the truly impressive stuff. In fact, the Udvar-Hazy Center is an extension of the National Air and Space Museum; it contains collection pieces that are simply too large to include in the D.C. building. Located in two huge hangars on the grounds adjacent to Washington Dulles International Airport, the museum features over 150 aircraft, an IMAX theater, a former control tower turned observation tower to look out onto Dulles Airport and listen in real time to air traffic controllers, and a restoration hangar.
As you enter the museum, the very first aircraft to greet you are the strikingly smooth Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird stealth aircraft along with a P-40 and Corsair from the WWII era. Once you’re able to take your eyes off of these, you’ll spy the Center’s space wing, easily identified by Space Shuttle Discovery sitting right in the middle. The Center features other highlights such as the Enola Gay, the Boeing B-29 aircraft that dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, and an Air France Concorde supersonic airplane.
Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, Illinois
We couldn’t complete this list without including a good old, traditional science museum that is incredibly impressive in its own right. The largest science museum in the Western Hemisphere, the Museum of Science and Industry (MSI) in Chicago is worth a mention for the sheer fact that it is home to an entire German submarine, a working coal mine, a stainless-steel train, a chick hatchery, and a space gallery featuring the Apollo 8 capsule. It is easy to get lost in the 75 primary exhibit halls and leave the museum knowing that you haven’t even scratched the surface. In fact, I spent an entire three-day trip to Chicago at the MSI and didn’t make it to every exhibit.
The MSI is a fantastic museum for families, with exhibits spanning a wide variety of topics geared towards visitors of all ages. The museum’s lower level contains the restored German submarine U-505, which was captured by the Allies during World War II. Of the six German submarines captured during the war, it is the only one on display in the U.S. The exhibit recalls the riveting story of the capture, offers guided tours of the submarine, and features two Enigma machines which were on the submarine. Other exhibits in the museum focus on genetics, weather phenomena, human biology and health, and transportation. Additionally, the museum is a participant in the ASTC Travel Passport Program which grants free general admission to members of their own regional science museum.
Get Ready to Geek Out
No matter what time of year you have the chance to visit these museums, we hope you get to geek out and learn something new! Let us know what you think about these recommendations, as well as what other technology museums you love to visit on Bishop Fox LinkedIn or Twitter channels.
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