National Cryptologic Museum

National Cryptologic Museum
National Cryptologic Museum
Established 1993
Location 8290 Colony Seven Road
Annapolis Junction, MD 20701
United States of America
Type History
Visitor figures 50,000 annually
Curator Patrick Weadon[1]
Website National Cryptologic Museum--NSA/CSS

The National Cryptologic Museum (NCM) is an American museum of cryptologic history that is affiliated with the National Security Agency (NSA). The first public museum in the U.S. Intelligence Community,[2] NCM is located in the former Colony Seven Motel, just two blocks from the NSA headquarters at Fort George G. Meade, Maryland. The museum opened to the public on December 16, 1993, and now hosts about 50,000 visitors annually from all over the world. It is open Monday through Friday, 0900-1600 EST5EDT, as well as 1000-1400 EST5EDT on the first and third Saturdays of every month. It is closed on Sundays and all Federal holidays, and operates on NSA's emergency/weather closure schedule (e.g. if NSA is closed, the museum is closed as well).[2]

Next to the museum is the National Vigilance Park (NVP), where three reconnaissance aircraft are on display. A U.S. Army Seminole RU-8D Reconnaissance Plane represents the Army Airborne Signals Intelligence contribution in the Vietnam War. A Hercules C-130 transport, modified to look like a reconnaissance-configuration C-130A, memorializes a U.S. Air Force aircraft shot down over Soviet Armenia during the Cold War. Finally, the park contains a U.S. Navy Skywarrior EA-3B, commemorating a mission in the Mediterranean on January 25, 1987 in which all seven crew members died.[3]

NCM and NVP are open to the public and admission is free. Donations to the NCM Foundation are accepted. Photography is allowed inside the museum, however, flash photography is prohibited in certain areas of the museum due to the age of some of the artifacts.



The NCM collection contains thousands of artifacts, including numerous working World War II German Enigma machines (2 of them are available for visitors to try out), and a Navy Bombe used to break it. It also houses displays that discuss the history of American cryptology and the people, machines, techniques, and locations concerned. Initially housing NSA artifacts for viewing by employees, the museum quickly developed into a collection of U.S. cryptologic history, with some artifacts dating back to pre-American Revolutionary War times.

In addition to exhibits covering equipment used to encrypt, decrypt, and secure information, the museum features exhibits on the people who contributed to cryptography in America, such as George Washington (who integrated military intelligence tactics, including coded messaging, into the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War), the Native American code talkers (who protected U.S. communications during both World Wars by using their native languages to encode message traffic), and the Navy WAVES (who, like the WRENS of the British Royal Navy, operated the Bombe to decrypt German military traffic during WWII).

Collections are divided into four major groupings:

In addition, there are galleries throughout NCM focusing on the roles of women and African-Americans in cryptologic history, the variety of languages in use throughout the world (including a replica of the Rosetta Stone), and the code used by hobos to share information in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.[5]

The NCM includes an unclassified library of books, papers, and other materials relating to the history of cryptography and cryptology as well. The library is open on weekdays when the museum is open. The library is non-circulating (that is, material cannot be borrowed or checked out by the public), but photocopying and photography are allowed. Patrons needing extensive or rare materials for research are encouraged to contact the museum to schedule an appointment with the librarian.[5]

The size of NCM's library nearly doubled with the donation of an extensive collection of papers, books, and other artifacts related to codes and ciphers from cryptologic historian and author David Kahn.[2] The donation was formally dedicated by the NCM during a recognition ceremony for Dr. Kahn on 26 October 2010.[6]


The museum offers tours for members of the public, both scheduled and walk-in, that describe cryptology’s impact on history and jobs in the field. Tours are led by docents who are retired NSA employees. Groups of six persons or more are requested to contact the museum in advance to schedule tours and ensure docent availability.

In addition, the NCM offers educational field trips, tours, talks, and interactive programs for students ages 9 and up, as well as programs for Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of all ages to satisfy various pins, requirements, and electives; interested educators, scoutmasters, and troop leaders are encouraged to contact the museum for more details.

The NCM was the site of the 2010 activation ceremony for Marine Corps Forces, Cyberspace Command. The ceremony was attended by former CMC General Alfred M. Gray, Jr.[7]

NSA Hall of Honor

The NSA Hall of Honor is a memorial honoring individuals with distinguished service to American cryptology.[8] Created in 1999, the standards are high for induction; honored individuals were innovators over their entire careers, whose expertise in various NSA subject matters far surpassed any of their peers, or who made major contributions to the structure and processes of American cryptology.[9]

Photo gallery

See also



  • Jack E. Ingram, Ensuring the Legacy: The Story of the National Cryptologic Museum, Studies in Intelligence, 47(3), 2003 [1]
  • Jack E. Ingram, The National Cryptologic Museum: The First Ten Years — A Personal Story. Intelligencer 14(1) (Winter/Spring 2004), pp101–110.
  • Louis Kruh, A Pictorial Tour of the National Cryptologic Museum, 18(4), October 1994, pp381–389.

External links

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