International Spy Museum
|Established||July 19, 2002|
|Location||800 F Street Northwest
|Visitors||Approx. 600,000 annually|
|Public transit access||Gallery Place–Chinatown|
The International Spy Museum is a privately owned museum dedicated to the tradecraft, history and contemporary role of espionage, featuring the largest collection of international espionage artifacts currently on public display. The museum is located within the 1875 Le Droit Building in the Penn Quarter neighborhood of Washington, D.C., across the street from the Old Patent Office Building (which houses the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery) and one block south of the Gallery Place Metro station via Red, Green and Yellow lines. In April 2015, plans for a new museum designed by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners were released. The lease on the site of the current museum ends in 2017.
History and formation
The museum was built and founded by Milton Maltz and The House on F Street, L.L.C. at a cost of approximately $40 million. The museum was first conceptualized in 1996 and opened to the public in 2002. It is one of the few museums in Washington DC that charges admission fees.
The International Spy Museum was formed as a for-profit organization by Milton Maltz and The Malrite Company. Milton Maltz, a code-breaker during the Korean War, founded the Malrite Communications Group in 1956 (which later became The Malrite Company) and was CEO until it was sold in 1998.
The Malrite Company provided half of the foundation cost of the International Spy Museum. The other $20 million came from the District of Columbia as enterprise zone bonds and TIF bonds. The International Spy Museum is part of the ongoing rejuvenation of the Penn Quarter in D.C., kicked off in the 1980s by the Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corporation.
More than 750 artifacts are on public display within the 20,000 square feet (1900 m²) of exhibition space, supported with historic photographs, interactive displays, film, and video. The permanent collection traces the complete history of espionage, from the Greek and Roman empires, the British Empire, the American Revolutionary War, the American Civil War, both World Wars, the Cold War, and through present day espionage activity. Exhibits include:
Covers & Legends: Visitors begin their mission by adopting a cover identity and learning why an agent needs one. They are then led into the Briefing Room to be introduced to the real world of espionage.
School for Spies: This section provides an introduction to the tradecraft of espionage and describes many of the skills and tools essential to a spy. It explores the different motivations that lead people into the clandestine world, how they are recruited and trained, and how they operate.
The Secret History of History: This series of galleries chronicles the history of spying from biblical times to the early 20th century. It explores such phenomena as the institutionalization of spying in the early years of the Soviet Union and traces the rise of espionage technology, such as spy photography. It also examines the role that women have played in espionage and reveals well-known historical figures who were also spymasters, including George Washington and author Daniel Defoe.
Spies Among Us: These exhibits, films, and videos examine espionage through World War II, showcasing real-life spy stories. They explore the role of code-making and code-breaking operations and teach various ways to create, break and hide coded messages through interactive exhibits. An exhibit on celebrity spies details famous figures who had separate careers in espionage unbeknownst to the public, including singer Josephine Baker, chef Julia Child, baseball legend Moe Berg, movie director John Ford, and actress Marlene Dietrich.
The 21st Century: The challenges facing intelligence professionals worldwide in the 21st Century are addressed in the film Ground Truth. The looming threat of Cyber War is addressed in Weapons of Mass Disruption.
Exquisitely Evil: 50 Years of Bond Villains: On November 16, 2012, the International Spy Museum opened the newest interactive exhibition "Exquisitely Evil: 50 Years of Bond Villains", celebrating the Golden Anniversary of the James Bond film franchise—from 1962's Dr. No to 2012's Skyfall—with a detailed focus on 007's most memorable adversaries. The exhibit explores how the evildoers and their plots have evolved to reflect real world threats and how James Bond has influenced the public’s perception of real espionage. In addition to over 110 historic and cinematic artifacts from the 23 films, the exhibition features videos in which members of the intelligence community comment on the Bond films and share their own "Bond Moments."
The museum also has an interactive exhibit called Operation Spy, where visitors assume the roles of covert agents and participate in a one-hour Hollywood-style spy simulation, in which they move from area to area and are faced with puzzles, tasks, motion simulators, sound effects, and video messages as they work through a mission involving the interception of a secret arms deal involving a nuclear trigger. This exhibition has a separate admission fee and separate entrance from the museum's permanent exhibit.
Spy in the City
In the spring of 2009, the museum began an interactive called Spy in the City where visitors are given a GPS-type device and tasked with finding clues near various landmarks in the area surrounding the museum, for the purposes of fulfilling a mission of obtaining the password for a secret weapon.
A wide range of educational and cultural programs are offered for students, adults, and families including scholarly lectures; films; book signings; hands-on workshops; student, adult and senior group tour packages; and other special events throughout the year.
The International Spy Museum's 5,000 square foot store features a diverse selection of merchandise that mirrors the Museum's presentation of the tradecraft and history of espionage as well as the popular interpretations of that profession. Items for sale include over 500 books, maps and prints; a wide range of spy-related toys and educational products; pop culture merchandise; disguise kits and paraphernalia; spycraft items; exhibit-related products; one-of-a-kind spy collectibles; and souvenir items.
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