Day Two, was spent at The International Spy Museum. The evening prior, our niece had purchased tickets online for a 1030 arrival, as the museum prefers to stagger it’s patrons for a more enjoyable experience. Ticket prices range between $18-23 dollars with children under 6 free, and discounts for active duty military. I can say without a doubt, that the experience is certainly worth the price of admission, as this museum is full of so much information your brain will hurt. We started our day unintentionally practicing good “spycraft”, having been dropped off at the King Street Metro station and boarding the wrong line, only to realize it once the Arlington stop came upon us. We exited at this stop in order to backtrack to the rail-line we needed to have boarded. Pretending we were “spies” we surmised that our inattention enabled us to identify a potential “tail”, as this was a sparsely populated stop. Releaved that no one exited with us (again thinking as “spies”), we joined a family of 4 that was on the platform waiting for the next train. In 4 minutes the appropriate line arrived and we headed back toward whence we came and got off at the Pentagon, where we changed rails and boarded the appropriate line to the L’Enfant Plaza Exit. Confident we had shaken any possible “tail”, we exited our stop and did our best to follow the “coded” directions provided by the Spy Museum’s website, which read as follows:
“The Museum’s address is 700 L’Enfant Plaza, SW Washington, DC 20024.
The closest Metro station is L’Enfant Plaza (Green, Yellow, Orange, Blue, and Silver lines).
Upon exiting the L’Enfant Plaza station, please proceed to the L’Enfant Plaza Mall Concourse, take the L’Enfant Plaza Exit up the escalator to enter the L’Enfant Plaza food court. Note: you will see Starbucks on your right as you reach the top of the escalator. Enter the glass doors straight ahead to access the food court. At the first hallway, when you reach Roti Mediterranean Grill, turn right.”
(For us, these directions, proved to be a total misdirection, which we found quite ironic considering the place we were trying to get to, and how our morning started. There was a Starbucks on our right at the top of the escalator, but the first hallway we reached, there was NO Roti Mediterranean Grill.)
“Continue straight until you reach the Jamba Juice stand. You will see a large flight of stairs in front of you. Take the stairs up to the ground level and exit through the glass doors to your left once you reach the top. You have reached the back side of the Museum. Walk towards 10th street, SW to access the Museum’s main lobby doors. If an elevator is preferred, one is located in front of the Jamba Juice. Take it to the Plaza level. The Museum will be directly behind you when you exit from the elevator vestibule.”
So, what the directions don’t tell you, is once you exit the Metro, there is more than one escalator and which escalator to take. We, obviously chose the wrong one.
Not to worry, as we were resourceful and asked for directions, which also proved to be somewhat convoluted. We then accessed Google Maps, which also took us on a circutous route as well, but got us close enough to see the giant RED building, and we navigated from there, laughing all the way.
Once inside the museum, of which I suggest you bring a jacket, as it very cool inside as a climate control measure for the many artifacts on display within the museum, it is time to head to the “Briefing Center” where you recieve you “cover identity”, and should you choose to accept it…your Undercover Identity. Bum Bum Buuuum. With your lanyard and “ID badge” (which you may keep), that is used for interactive purposes during your “mission”, you enter the dark world of the International Spy.
There are five centers of the museum to become totally immersed in:
- Stealing Secrets: Here you can listen to first hand accounts of spying, and get a look at REAL gadgets and inventions/tools of the “trade” used to steal secrets.
- Making Sense of Secrets: Code cracking and turning secrets into useful information is explored/explained
- Covert Action: Here ACTUAL and historical actions are on display in examples of, Sabatoge, Deception, Lethal Action, Secret Soldiers, Undermining Nations, Propoganda and Exfiltration (ie. the 2012 movie ARGO, that is a true story)
- Spying the Shaped History: This floor explores stories from the American Revolution to our current cyber warfare. If you ever watched the remarkably historically accurate AMC series TURN (4 seasons now on Amazon Prime), you will see and learn about these real American Revolutionary spies. An ACTUAL letter penned by George Washington to a revolutionary spy is on display.
- An Uncertain World: How do countries/businesses (worldwide) respond to threats – real, percieved, or contrived. What is the balance between security and freedom? It is here that we learned a little more about some of the most notorious spies of the 20th Century, to include Robert Hanssen (who spied for Russia 1979-2001) that inspired a side trip for the following days adventure. The 2002 TV/Movie “Master Spy”, and the book by David Wise, “SPY” explore the world of this notorious spy.
We spent a total of 5 hours at this fascinating museum, and we didn’t cover ALL that was housed within this treasure trove of information that tantilizes your senses and intellect. Interesting to note is that this museum operates as 501(c)(3) private non-profit and recieves no tax-payer/government monies to operatate. Many of the artifacts are donated, or on loan from governments and private owners. (One of the cars from the many James Bond movies is on display) The nominal fee charged for admission goes to fund the museum’s research, exhibits and educational programs/events.
As we exited from the Debriefing Center, having “successfully” completed our “Undercover Missions”, we vowed to make it a point to return to this museum to complete our exploration of the world of the International Spy. I wouldn’t be suprised if new and additional subjects/events/situations/inventions (think “current events”) will be on display.