Top Secret: From ciphers to cyber security at the Science and Industry Museum, Manchester

Sara Jaspan, Exhibitions Editor
The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum, GCHQ

Top Secret: From ciphers to cyber security at Science and Industry Museum, Castlefield 19 May — 31 August 2021 Entrance is free — Visit now

For its reopening show, the Science and Industry Museum is preparing to break out of lockdown with a major exhibition dedicated to the story of secret intelligence communications and national security in Britain over the last 100 years – told in over 100 objects. Curated in partnership with expert advisors from GCHQ (which recently opened an office in Manchester), and presented in the museum’s brand-new gallery space, Top Secret: From ciphers to cyber security will span everything from the cipher machines used during the Second World War, and Alan Turing’s role in cracking the German Enigma and Lorenz cipher systems at Bletchley Park, to the work being carried out to protect against cyberattacks and terrorism threats today.

The exhibition promises to reveal some of the previously hidden histories of the UK’s intelligence community using hand-written documents, declassified files and artefacts from GCHQ’s historic collections. It will also feature first-hand accounts and interviews with some of the people carrying out top secret work to defend against terrorist attacks and serious crime in the 21st century. These stories will be accompanied by a range of intriguing curios. Look out for an encryption key used by Her Majesty the Queen, and the 5-UCO (one of the first electronic and fully unbreakable cipher machines – which will be shown for the first time in public), as well as more recent examples, including a computer infected with the WannaCry ransomware (which, in 2017, affected thousands of people and organisations including the NHS), and the remains of the crushed hard drive alleged to contain top secret information which was given by Edward Snowden to the Guardian in 2013.

Whilst unearthing stories of the past, Top Secret also aims to inspire a new generation of code-breakers, and the exhibition will be dotted throughout with a series of interactive puzzles offering a chance for enthusiasts of all ages to put their deciphering skills to the test.

At a time when the issue of national security and surveillance is a source of ever-growing concern, Top Secret: From ciphers to cyber security should, if nothing else, be an eye-opening encounter.

Top Secret: From ciphers to cyber security at Science and Industry Museum, Castlefield 19 May — 31 August 2021 Entrance is free Visit now

Where to go near Top Secret: From ciphers to cyber security at the Science and Industry Museum, Manchester

Teppanyaki Chinatown

A Japanese teppanyaki restaurant in the centre of Chinatown. The focus is on high-quality food with a minimum of theatrics. It doesn’t disappoint.

Music venue
Castlefield Bowl

The Castlefield Bowl is an outdoor events pavilion in the inner city conservation area of Castlefield in Manchester. The 8000-capacity arena is often used for food festivals and music events.

Great John Street Hotel in Spinningfields in Manchester.
Great John Street Hotel

A converted Victorian school house nestled on the edge of Spinningfields, the Great John Street Hotel has a relaxed and decadent atmosphere.

Bar or Pub

Cask is a well-loved pub on Liverpool Road in Manchester. It has an excellent selection of continental beers and a cosy beer garden.

Event venue
Castlefield Viaduct

Launching in summer 2022, the National Trust and Twelve Architects and Masterplanners will be bringing a new lease of life to Castlefield Viaduct.


Modern Greek Mediterranean cuisine from the team behind Tattu.


Every piece in IDAHO has something special and will guarantee to make your homes, offices and wardrobes feel a little more inspiring.

Versa Manchester Studios

Formerly the Old Granada Studios, VERSA Manchester Studios is evolving into a dynamic Studio Campus with TV, Film, Motion Capture and VR / AR Studios alongside a glamorous new Soho House.

What's on: Exhibitions

Culture Guides

Rebecca Watson author photo
Literature Events in Manchester and the North

In between working out, then working through, your holiday reading pile this summer, find inspiration for your next bookish acquisitions from our selection of live events and exhibitions.