April 13-17, 2010
Denver, Colorado, USA

Sessions: Abstract

Can Twitter Save Bletchley Park?   go to paper

Sue Black, University of Westminster, United Kingdom
Jonathan Bowen, London South Bank University, United Kingdom
Kelsey Griffin, Bletchley Park Trust, United Kingdom

Bletchley Park is the historic site of secret British codebreaking activities during World War II and birthplace of the modern computer. The work carried out there is said to have shortened WWII by two years, saving possibly 22 million lives. The Park is now a museum, with a 26 acre site, many exhibitions and working rebuilds of machines such as the Colossus, a forerunner of today's computers, invented to mechanize codebreaking. The museum is staffed by a 75% volunteer workforce and is grossly underfunded compared to its historical importance.

After a visit by Sue Black to Bletchley Park in July 2008, a campaign was launched to save it. A letter to the UK broadsheet newspaper The Times signed by 97 eminent UK computer scientists was published and highlighted in a BBC news broadcast. Following traditional media coverage, a blog was established, and then social media, (particularly Twitter), which have been used to great effect to raise awareness and support for the campaign. Other Web 2.0 technologies, including Facebook, have also been used as part of the campaign.

This paper explores the effectiveness of this approach, using statistical evidence as appropriate, highlighting how the use of social media has contributed greatly to campaign success. Since the Saving Bletchley Park campaign started, visitor numbers have increased, along with public awareness of the contribution of the site to world heritage and the history of the computer.

Campaign efforts have received national coverage on television, on radio, and in the press and have contributed to the Park recently receiving £460K funding and a potential further £4 million funding from the UK Heritage Lottery Fund.

Session: Social Media: Reconstructing the Elephant [plenary - social media]

Keywords: blogging, fundraising, heritage, virtual community, United Kingdom, Web 2.0, social media, twitter