National Cryptologic Museum

MZPZO OAD FQJSOTWBZF VNPDNV UTL!

Key A=H

Can you decode the message you see in blue above?  If you visited the National Cryptologic Museum at Fort Meade, Maryland, you would be able to!  Okay, okay. I will give you the encryption code.  Use this cipher wheel (obtained at the museum).  I have already lined the letters up to match the key I chose (you can’t tell from the picture, but the black wheel turns independently…I have it lined up so that A=H). Now, match up each of the letters in the message above to find the answer (the answer can also be found at the bottom of this post)!

cipherwheel

This is just one example of the engaging activities that caught our attention today at the National Cryptologic Museum.  My husband, father, and two oldest kids had the pleasure of visiting the museum today and I was so pleasantly surprised, as was everyone else!  We had a TERRIFIC time.  The museum had several rooms of displays depicting the history and growth of cryptology in America.  Actual machines that were used, models of items used in international espionage, encrypted letters, and more.  Everything you could possibly desire to awaken the super spy inside of you.  Be careful though, you  may leave with a whole new sense of paranoia!

The museum was first built for use by NSA employees at the nearby offices, designed to enlighten them on the history of their careers.  The museum has been open to the public for more than two decades now and they offer opportunities for individuals, groups, and organizations to visit.  They offer guided tours and countless free booklets to take with you.  Once we returned home, my husband spent the better part of the afternoon reading a booklet and trying to confirm the mathematics behind the Enigma encryption machine!

Enigma Machine

The most valuable service they offered, however, was the Crypto Kids Challenge!  Oh my gosh.  Every museum should have a program like this.  Every museum.  We all know that the mention of a museum does not exactly insight excitement in people under the age of 18.  I cannot even count on my two hands the number of museums that I have been too and have barely been able to graze the surface of the information they had to offer.  The kids are bored after five minutes or constantly wanting to move from display to display, without really learning much of anything.

Deciphering Codes                     Deciphering Code

The National Cryptologic Museum has a great solution to that with the Crypto Kids Challenge!  My son, age 12, and my daughter, age 9, were both given a clipboard, challenge sheet, pencil, and cipher wheel at the entrance to the museum.  A pleasant man explained the “rules” to them:  They were to seek out the special signs throughout the museum, read the question, and decipher the code that contained the answer to the question.  After they documented all of their answers the children took their answer sheets to the front desk and received their choice of prize (both of mine chose a Frisbee and a pencil).

How many kids can you count on the floor focused on their work???

Not only did this engage my children in the displays, but it also gave them the opportunity to become a cryptographer for the day!  Not to mention, us adults were able to peruse the museum with very quiet, intent children, doing their own thing.  There were just enough signs to decipher to keep my kids involved for the duration of our visit.  They were also able to read about Native American Code Talkers and Soviet Spies, and see cryptology computers that filled up entire rooms and were only able to hold 256 MB of data!  The displays were filled with interesting topics.  There were plenty of interactive areas for everyone to enjoy, including typing your own code on an enigma machine, writing with invisible ink, and more.

Hands On Activiities

I highly recommend you visit the museum if you are in the DC  or Baltimore area, or anywhere in between.  It is a terrific way to spend the afternoon!  You can also follow in our footsteps and go to Expressway Pit Beef to grab lunch or dinner.  It’s a fantastic outdoor local BBQ spot.  Get your favorite BBQ dish and sit down or eat at one of the stand up picnic tables.

Details for the National Cryptologic Museum:

Fort Meade, MD

Like Their Facebook Page

Phone numbers
Office – 301-688-5849
Gift Shop – 301-688-6857
Library – 301-688-2145
Fax – 301-688-5847

Monday-Friday
9:00am – 4:00pm
Saturdays
(1st and 3rd of the month)
10:00am – 2:00pm
Closed Sundays and
Federal Holidays

Answer to the encrypted phrase above: Visit The Cryptologic Museum Now!


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