DOTS, dashes, secret codes and ciphers are all under the spotlight as a new North East exhibition uncovers the world of covert communications.

For thousands of years, humans have developed increasingly sophisticated ways to communicate in secret.

And amateur puzzlers and codebreakers can find out more about them at Cracked! Secret Codes and Communication – a major new exhibition at The Word, National Centre for the Written Word, South Shields.

Cracked! replaces the venue’s hugely successful Monsters! exhibition and takes visitors on an interactive journey, starting with the earliest examples of codes and ciphers.

The exhibition also looks at methods of secret communication used during war times and explores how modern technology uses code to allow people to communicate safely today.

Visitors can try cracking a secret code using a Caesar Wheel, communicate a message to friends using Flag Semaphore at the Code Station and discover ciphers and codes that have remained unsolved for years and are still a mystery to even the sharpest of cryptologists.

Espionage and ciphers are particularly important during times of war and Cracked! Secret Codes and Communication also looks at military communications such as Morse Code and the famous Engima machine, which heralded the emergence of computing.

Visitors to Cracked! can also view When the Bugle Calls a touring exhibition from the DLI Collection, which explains the way in which bugles and other instruments were used to relay instructions to soldiers on battlefields and keep morale alive in dark and dangerous times.

The free exhibition runs until 2 June and Tania Robinson, Head of Culture at The Word, National Centre for the Written Word, said it provides a fascinating glimpse into the secret world of codes, from those used by the ancient Greeks to the tricks and techniques used by modern day internet hackers.

“Some, like the WW2 codebreaking Enigma machine are obviously incredibly complex but actually some of the very simplest codes are extremely effective, too,” she said.

“And this means the exhibition has something to offer visitors of all ages with plenty to learn and discover – and even the chance to put their own puzzle solving skills to the test.”

Jon Ternent, Head of Design, at Newcastle-based Sheridan Design, which put the exhibition together, said: “The further we delved into this subject, the more fascinating the facts that we uncovered.

“Particularly, we were amazed at just how sophisticated some of the early forms of codes were. So much so, in fact, that a few have still not been solved to this day.

“We think that anyone who enjoys solving puzzles and perhaps giving their brain a gentle workout will find something interesting and intriguing in this exhibition”.

For more information: