Amazing Collection of Spy History and "Stuff"

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by MilwVon on January 2, 2011

When you mention the International Spy Museum to those who have attended, you will most likely get a "You must go" response. I know I did when I told folks it was on our agenda for this trip to Virginia. What I didn't take into account regarding this very popular museum was that school kids were not in school and the city was going to be filled with tourists also going to this "must go" destination. It was very busy, and at times, too crowded to fully engage with all of the exhibits found in this compact three floor museum. (NOTE: Exhibits are only on floors three and one, however.)

Upon arrival, expect to have a line to enter the museum. Once inside the building, you will be swept to the third floor by elevator. Guests assume a new identity for their adventure and are then taken to the entrance of the main exhibit area. The exhibits feature a number of artifacts and hands on activities. Some include video explanations of how various devices or tools of the trade have been used to further intelligence gathering or the distribution of misinformation. Unfortunately, no photography was permitted inside the museum.

I enjoyed the historical aspect of the spy business, and how intelligence had been gathered and utilized throughout the history of man. Even during the early American History, our founding fathers had to engage in espionage to further the mission of freedom.

David and I were both surprised at how misinformation by a counterspy helped the allied forces against Germany on D-Day. What a great story of deception that led to that defining moment during WWII. Be sure to take the time to view this short video.

Near the end of the museum's exhibit area was a video wall with three short stories about spies who were double agents and caught through a game of "cat and mouse". Their stories were quite amazing, especially when you consider they were all relatively in recent past (20 years or less). How they slipped up to be caught was equally amazing.

Some of the museum's exhibits held some special interest to me including how intelligence was communicated through codes that largely had to be deciphered by early computers in the 1950's and 1960's. This was the type of work my dad did as a civilian at the Pentagon prior to his retirement from civil service in the 60's. I remember as a kid going to his office with the huge room of computers, which was kept from overheating through year-round air conditioning. I also recall playing coding games, writing secret messages that he always figured out within minutes. I thought he was a genius!

To thoroughly enjoy this museum, I would suggest trying to figure out when they are not quite so busy . . . or plan your trip for first thing in the morning after then open. We would have loved to have had more time to experience the hands on activities, plus viewing all of the exhibits throughout the museum.

More information may be found on their website: including hours of operation and special instructions for buying tickets in advance. General admission (ages 12-64) is $18/person. There is a small discount for seniors and kids younger than 12.

To get to the Int'l Spy Museum, take the Metrorail to the Gallery Place/Chinatown stop on the yellow, green or red line. The museum is just a block from the station on F Street.
International Spy Museum
800 F St. NW
Washington, District of Columbia, 20004
(202) 393-7798

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