While we were in DC Visiting The Museum of the Bible we also stopped by The Spy Museum! It’s a bit away from the Smithsonian area so we made a special trip to the side of town. We were delighted to see it is currently across from the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery (it’s moving in the fall of 2018) so we knew where we were heading after we left.
My friends have always raved about The Spy Museum- even the ones who live in DC. We got discounted tickets on Gold Star before we went to DC and I was excited to check everything out.
They used these cars to sneak people around! There are four people crammed in those compartments for up to 18 hours!
And then I was really miserable for the next two hours.
They put you in the elevator and when the doors open you have no clue where to go. It’s two hallways and no directions. And there are people EVERYWHERE. I pull out the map and I still can’t figure out what to do. I give the map to someone smarter than me and he can’t figure out where to go either.
So we just walk. And end up going through what is supposed to be the second section backwards.
In the hallway are posters that they used to convince people not to run their mouths during the war. This one was my favorite. Most of the posters were warning that women are smarter than they look and don’t talk to them.
Spies Among Us
So the first section we went through was called “Spies Among Us.” It was spy history used during WWII. It was incredibly difficult to see most of the stuff because everything is cramped but Joel did manage to try his hand at decoding using an Enigma machine.
Did you know they make inflatable cars? They used them during WWII so that from the air it looked to the enemy like a convey and they would waste bombs. That was fascinating to me.
The Secret History of History
After that section we went into “Secret History of History” and I found it much more interesting.
This section was all about the history of spies- it handled Biblical times, the original Ninjas, George Washington, the Three Musketeers and Stalin.
The room starts with “The Art of War” and then goes through the history of the “second oldest profession in the world.”
For a history nerd like myself it was interesting. Since it was mostly just reading and not activities the room was a bit emptier and we were able to spend some time really looking at things.
Also in this section was my favorite discovery of the entire museum- the Pigeon Cam! During WWI they flew pigeons with cameras on them to take pictures! So they got amazing overhead views without using planes or hot air balloons. They had some beautiful pictures displayed (including some that caught a bit of wing in them)!
School for Spies
This car belonged to Bond. James Bond.
So School for Spies was a madhouse. At the entrance to the section there was some kind of computer that gave a scavenger hunt or something and the place was CRAWLING with middle schoolers. I could barely see anything.
The one section that did pull me in (and I pushed people to get them out of my way) was all the stuff on bugging people. This was one of my FAVORITE things.
This is “The Thing.” The Thing, also known as the Great Seal bug, was one of the first covert listening devices (or “bugs”) to use passive techniques to transmit an audio signal. It was concealed inside a gift given by the Soviet Union to W. Averell Harriman, the United States Ambassador to the Soviet Union, on August 4, 1945. It hung in his study for SEVEN years until it was discovered.
We also laughed hysterically at the story about the US Embassy in Moscow and the Russian embassy in DC. The walls were SO FULL OF BUGS when they were being built each building took over 25 years to build.
Exquisitely Evil: 50 Years of Bond Villains
After we finished upstairs we went down to the Bond exhibit. Because HOW can you have a spy museum without a Bond exhibit?
The concentration was on the villains and it was VERY cool. There was tons of items from the movies and lots of things to interact with.
In the Fall of 2018 the Spy Museum will be moving to a new facility that has DOUBLE the square footage of the current one. We will be going back as we only really got to see probably half of what the museum had to offer. My advice is HANG ON until the new one is open- I think you will enjoy it much more!