More About the Museum

The National Cryptologic Museum Library holds a unique collection and archives of unclassified and declassified books, documents, and memorabilia focusing on cryptology and cryptologic history. The goals of the Library are to support the activities of the National Cryptologic Museum, to present an overview of the topical literature and materials to museum visitors, and to provide research facilities for those interested in the subject. The Library, a non-lending institution, welcomes academicians, historians, research fellows, students, and cryptology buffs to avail themselves of the wealth of historical and primary source materials.

The National Cryptologic Museum has had an adjunct reference library since it opened in 1993. The library not only supports the exhibits, but also encourages visitors to research various areas of cryptologic history. Over the years, the library has become an important resource to students, scholars, and those with an interest in this once secret world.

The Museum Library maintains a collection of unclassified and declassified books and documents relating to every aspect of cryptology. The books and records complement the museum exhibits and artifacts, but also offer unique and in-depth sources of information for researchers. View a listing of those sources online via the NSA site.

The library has a very large collection of commercial codebooks. These codebooks were used by all manner of businesses to reduce the costs of cable communications as well as to provide a measure of security for trade secrets. Modern communications and encryption methods have made these books obsolete and they are mainly of historical interest. Some of the most sought after items in the library include the declassified documents. The Museum Library holds all of the released VENONA documents. NSA's Special Research Histories (SRH) provide documentation of NSA's predecessor organizations in the U.S. Army and Navy's cryptologic services. The SRH collection (available in its entirety at the National Archives in Record Group 457) consists of declassified reports dating predominantly to World War II. The library also holds some of the oral histories taken by NSA's Center for Cryptologic History.

A few select, unclassified monographs are also available to the public from the Museum Library. They cover a wide range of cryptologic subjects from early American ciphers to the Vietnam War. Most of the monographs were written and published by NSA's Center for Cryptologic History. These monographs go into greater depth than the museum exhibits or museum pamphlets and help to provide a greater understanding of the events in which cryptology played a role in world history.

The collection nearly doubled by the gift of the leading historian of cryptology, David Kahn, author of The Codebreakers. The works range from the first printed book on cryptology, the 1518 Polygraphiae Libri Sex by the German mystic Johannes Trithemius, to Kahn's notes of his interviews with modern cryptologists. Learn more about Kahn's donations via the NCMF Special Acquisitions page.

In June 2010, the library received another gift of the archives of the late John Byrne who invented what he called "Chaocipher" in 1918. Among these papers are an enciphered excerpt from a speech by General Douglas MacArthur, Chaocipher - The Ultimate Elusion, worksheets for Chaocipher Exhibit 2, blueprints of the Chaocipher, Preliminary Instructions for Chaocipher II (a computerized version of the Chaocipher developed by Byrne's son John Jr.), correspondence between Byrne and the RD Development Company, and letters from Byrne to U.S. Navy Capt. J.M. Irish and Greg Mellen.

The Museum Library is open to the public; however, the hours vary. Please call ahead to ensure that a staff member will be present to assist you (301-688-2145). The library is non-circulating, but photocopying is permitted.

Donations to the library by the NCMF or facilitated by the NCMF

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