Scientist Joyce Wheeler at the opening of the gallery (all images courtesy the National Museum of Computing)
Since it opened in 2007, the National Museum of Computing in England has been dedicated to showing that the history of computers is something worth preserving. Housed in Bletchley Park — a center for codebreaking in World War II where massive Colossus computers once deciphered Nazi messages — it hasn’t just amassed old computing devices, but has made these “retrocomputing” machines available to the public and aspiring programmers.
However, they noticed that in all the programs offered at the museum, very few of the participants were women, and so this month they opened the Women in Computing Gallery.
The Women in Computing Gallery
Chris Monk, the Learning Co-ordinator at TNMOC, explained the reasons for the gallery to Atlas Obscura:
Last year, the National Museum of Computing launched a program offering educational tours of the museum to schools and colleges. Though very successful overall, we were startled to find that less than 10% in the groups were female! So, with Google, the idea of the Gallery was born to help address the very large and complex issue of attracting women into computing as a career. The new gallery highlights female role models and, in time, we will be embedding and integrating these stories throughout all the museum. We know that there are many untold stories – we want to hear them so that we can incorporate them in this new gallery.
Margaret Bullen, who was involved in building the first Colossus computer
The gallery, sponsored by Google UK, celebrates the frequently overlooked contributions from women to computing, including Kathleen Booth who wrote the first assembly language and Stephanie Shirley — who once even went by Steve with her computer work to get ahead — who started her own software company in the 1960s with a goal to have more opportunities for women programmers. The initial multimedia content of the gallery is just a start, and the museum is encouraging anyone with more on the history of women in computing to get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org
A learning program at the museum
NATIONAL MUSEUM OF COMPUTING, Bletchley Park, England