Bletchley Park, a mansion estate in the town of Bletchley near Milton Keynes, has an iconic place in history for its breakthroughs in codebreaking and information technology during the Second World War. An impressive 10,000 men and women worked in the wider Bletchley Park organisation, all of whom signed the Official Secrets Act upon their arrival, making this one of history’s best kept secrets.
When wartime information became declassified in the mid-1970s, stories from this forgotten past slowly crept into the limelight. Today, Bletchley Park is a charity-funded heritage attraction and museum that recognises and acknowledges the achievements that took place during World War Two, and, thanks to the restoration work and vision of those working there, showcases how and why these historical breakthroughs remain relevant today.
Thanks to the Heritage Lottery Fund, a Bletchley Park restoration project began in 2012. The site is being revitalised by a ten-year plan to continue its transformation and further engage with the public – 250,000 of whom visit on average each year.
To help raise awareness of its remarkable stories, Bletchley Park decided to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings in 2019 with the opening of a new exhibition designed to reveal the role played by Bletchley codebreakers around the 1944 landings in Normandy, France. In 2016, PLB Projects Ltd, specialists in creative museum design and strategic heritage services, were appointed as the main contractor for the design and build of the D-Day exhibition. PLB partnered with the digital media makers Centre Screen, specialist fit-out contractor The Hub, and AV and Multimedia specialists D J Willrich Ltd, transforming this into a fully integrated project.
The exhibition, located in Bletchley Park’s Teleprinting Building, presented a challenge for installation, as this part of the estate was also undergoing significant restoration. With the help of Epson’s versatile projectors and the specialist services of Centre Screen, The Hub and D J Willrich Ltd, the exhibition was successfully brought to life, telling specific stories in the places where they occurred which helped to create an authentic atmosphere.
Bringing the story to life
The exhibition needed to cover two spaces. The first was an introductory gallery, focusing on the lead up to the D-Day landings on 6th June 1944. The second was a timed immersive, cinematic experience that brought together the full impact of the intelligence provided by Bletchley Park.
Becky Jarvis-Stiggants, Senior Interpretive Designer from PLB Projects, says, “The design of the introductory gallery was purposefully minimal, to allow large numbers of visitors to gather before they view the main show, whilst still gaining an overview of Bletchley Park’s role and learning a little about some key individuals behind the intelligence. The brief for the main show included revolving central projection tables, but this was replaced with an ambitious, 22m wide, multi-screen curved wall spanning the entire length of the hall – wrapping around the viewing areas and creating a fully immersive and dramatic cinematic experience.”
Chris Willrich, Director at DJ Willrich, adds, “It was great to return to Bletchley Park and help them with their next steps in bringing the site to life. The design for the projection was really creative, which made it interesting to develop a solution that could deliver this. Using the Epson projectors helped to make the really creative design much simpler to execute, whilst the excellent depth of field of the projectors meant that we could achieve crystal-clear imagery on all of the multiple screens. Epson’s continued support from pre-sale stage to post installation is always a factor in selecting hardware for all the projects we are a part of.”
To create the 22m curved screen, Epson provided five EB-L1105U laser projectors with short throw lenses which were installed, overlapping and masking off each area to create a seamless, single image. The film itself is 12 minutes long and uses footage, images and documents from Bletchley’s vast archive collection, along with animated scenes, to create a full picture of events. At times, the film uses all projection surfaces together, creating a single powerful image and in turn a fully immersive experience. Mapping the content onto the curved wall with a total of thirty-three screens was a challenge for both Centre Screen and D J Willrich, but the end result is a compelling and memorable summary of Bletchley Park’s role in the success of D-Day.
Preserving a history for future generations
The Teleprinter Building was officially opened in May 2019 with the attendance of HRH The Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton. The hugely successful exhibition welcomes over a 1000 visitors each day and has played a major role in revitalising Bletchley Park’s plans for future visitor growth.
Becky Jarvis-Stiggants explains, “As Bletchley Park doesn’t have an in-house IT team, having dependable, durable and high-quality hardware is paramount to the running of and attendance at our D-Day Exhibition, and Epson has proved their reputation in delivering the wow factor with their projection technology. The landscape for invigorating visitors at heritage attractions like Bletchley Park is highly competitive, and we set the bar extremely high to ensure we meet modern standards in providing memorable experiences. The versatility of Epson’s projectors in the highly dynamic Teleprinter Building has helped to make this project as seamless as possible.”