Alan Turing. A name you might be familiar with.
The mathematician with a penchant for puzzles and a craving for complex conundrums.
The hero that made the single biggest contribution to the Allied victory in the war against Nazi Germany, according to Winston Churchill: a contribution that shortened the Second World War by two years.
The genius whose work at Bletchley Park led to the creation of your computer, your phone, not to mention tablet PCs and the many other devices that evolved from the breakthroughs in computer science that he made.
Even if none of this rings any bells as you read it, you can’t have missed the hype around The Imitation Game: the film depicting Alan Turing’s life and work on decrypting Enigma. Benedict Cumberbatch’s portrayal of Turing is fantastic – I urge you to go and see the film while you can, because it is the best historical film you will see all year.
Of course, films, not unlike academic papers or family histories, require a great deal of research – particularly with eagle-eyed viewers who are keen to point out mistakes. But how can any type of researchers – film, personal or academic, hope to get anywhere with their research if we don’t manage our information properly?
If you want to operate with fluidity and efficiency it is essential to keep your files and papers well organised. Although, having said that, I recently read in one of our files that according to one of his colleagues at Bletchley Park, Turing was untidy with a tendency to lose things and was all in all not a ‘practical man’ (HW 25). But I digress. We all know that, usually, good information management is the key to efficiency and it’s also important to enable researchers of the future to make sense of what happened in the past. Without good information management, important historical events like the breaking of Enigma may never be able to be translated into films like The Imitation Game. History can need a great deal of deciphering and figuring out at the best of times, and that’s when it’s organised and laid out in front of you!