The "Polygraphiae," part of the National Cryptologic Museum's Rare Book Collection, was published in 1518 and is an extremely rare copy of the first book ever written in the Western world on cryptology. (courtesy of the National Cryptologic Museum)

Days before another anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, the National Cryptologic Museum in Fort Meade helps remind us of the dedication, sacrifice and smarts needed to safeguard national secrets. Adjacent to the NSA, it houses artifacts from the cryptologists who, throughout history, have developed theories, devices and methods of code breaking. For nearly 20 years, the museum has remembered those who make that possible.

Visitors can encrypt their own messages on authentic German Enigmas at the National Cryptologic Museum. (courtesy of the National Cryptologic Museum)
1 Scorched Pentagon remnant on display from the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people at New York’s World Trade Center, the Pentagon and in a plane crash in Pennsylvania.
50 Standing displays with hundreds of documents, machines and devices including “The Magic of Purple,” about efforts to break the Japanese diplomatic code during World War II; two Cray Supercomputers, including one in operation from 1983 to 1993, which were arguably considered the most powerful in the world at the time; and unclassified and declassified books and documents relating to every aspect of cryptology.
169 Names of Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine and civilian cryptologists who died “serving in silence” in the line of duty carved on the National Cryptologic Memorial wall.
50,000 Visitors annually, including international tourists, since the museum opened in 1993.

The year the government began its first large-scale hiring program for African American cryptologists. By the end of WWII, 30 African Americans were researching and analyzing encrypted messages and producing translations from their segregated office.

1518 Year the first book on cryptology, “Polygraphiae” by German mystic Johannes Trithemius was written. It was part of a 2010 gift of books and artifacts by historian David Kahn, author of “The Codebreakers: The Story of Secret Writing,” that nearly doubled the museum’s collection.
3x10 to the
114 th power
Theoretical number of ciphering possibilities of the German cryptographic machine called the Enigma. Its encryption code was broken by three Polish mathematicians just before WWII, and the museum houses two working Enigma machines (of the three known to exist) that visitors can try out.