Historical encryption machines go on display in Kraków

Several dozen historical machines for sending secret information are available for viewing at the Museum of Municipal Engineering (MIM) in Kraków, southern Poland, with the organisers of the exhibition saying that it is the first display of its type in the city.

The site for the exhibition, “Warning! The Enemy is Listening” (in Polish: Uwaga! Nieprzyjaciel podsłuchuje), Hall E, built in 1882 for horse-drawn trams, is the oldest hall in the complex of the former tram depot on which MIM was built.

The rest of the facility is closed down for a PLN 41-million (EUR 9.6-million) general refurbishment scheduled for completion in 2021.

The aim of the exhibition is to bring the history of cryptography home to the public. “We want our guests to visualise that cryptography from WWII is not just about the Enigma machine. Many other ciphering systems were used,” exhibition curator Marek Więcek told Polish news agency, PAP.

On display are several dozen machines which served to transmit secret information. They were used, among others, by the military, the intelligence service and the democratic opposition.

The oldest come from the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. Among the exhibits are teleprinters and field telephones, the history of some of which are related to the legendary Enigma.

Among the most valuable objects, which could use information encoded by the Enigma machine, the curator listed field equipment of the Hella telegraphic system used by the German army and the HRO radio receiver produced by the Americans. Both these apparatus are the property of the MIM.

Right at the entrance of the exhibition is an interactive station where visitors can find a teleprinter produced in the Czech Republic in the 1970s. Thanks to a special system created by the museum staff, the teleprinter can print the contents of SMS text messages sent to a number provided by the museum.

The “Warning! The Enemy is Listening” exhibition runs until January 2020.

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