Rainy day? Looking for inspiration? Student of spycraft? Whether you’re in the District or not, cleared professionals (and their families) may find a virtual or old-school visit to the International Spy Museum both entertaining and educational. Here’s what you might find.

BEHIND THE SCENES at the spy museum

One of the newest museums in the Capital, The International Spy Museum is a post-9/11 repository of all things espionage. Established in 2002 after seven years in the works, the museum has become an exciting stop for tourists and locals alike looking for something with a little more intrigue than paintings and landmarks (not that there’s anything wrong with those). The museum houses and preserves “the largest collection of international espionage artifacts ever placed on public display,” museum officials claim. “Many of these objects are being seen by the public for the first time.” And the brains behind the project are some of the most respected in the intelligence community: Judge William Webster (former FBI director), James Woolsey (CIA’s former director), Major General Oleg Kalugin (of KGB Foreign Counterintelligence fame), MI5’s Dame Stella Rimington, and more.  These espionage professionals are, according to the museum, “committed to the apolitical presentation of the history of espionage in order to provide visitors with impartial, accurate information.”

spy tools UNMASKED

Whether you’re a spy-film buff, into the tools of spying, or simply love the history we don’t hear about too much, the museum won’t disappoint. The institution exhibits spy films—both cinema like 007 and the likes of old espionage training tapes; it showcases old photographs of “captured spies, spy tools in use, and dead drop sites” around the world, and even Americana like “toys and games modeled after Mission: Impossible, Get Smart, and The Avengers, as well as a recreation of the Aston Martin DB5 as seen in the movie, Goldfinger.” For serious students of spying, the museum is also a respectable source of historical artifacts. “Through its extensive collection,” the museum explains, “the International Spy Museum illustrates the real-life stories of intelligence professionals and offers insight into the overall impact of spycraft on world history as well as public perception of espionage practices.”


Besides the permanent collection, the Spy Museum hosts a variety of scheduled events worth considering. For instance, on June 14, the museum presents “Allies vs. Axis: Roosevelt, Churchill, Hitler, and Atomic Espionage.” This feature hosts author Raymond J. Batvinis (Hoover’s Secret War Against Axis Spies) who will speak on “counterintelligence, German atomic espionage efforts, FBI-British wartime relations, and radio deception conducted during the most critical part of the Second World War.” Free. A few days later—for a price—you can join a timely discussion about the 1917 Espionage Act that will include consideration of “whether journalists should have reason to fear being prosecuted for disclosing classified information, and what protections whistleblowers might or should have in the 21st century.”

Not convinced? Bored at work? Spend some time exploring the online exhibits or enjoy a virtual visit of the museum. Oh, and if you feel you’ve found a home at the Spy Museum, they’re hiring.

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Ed Ledford enjoys the most challenging, complex, and high stakes communications requirements. His portfolio includes everything from policy and strategy to poetry. A native of Asheville, N.C., and retired Army Aviator, Ed’s currently writing speeches in D.C. and working other writing projects from his office in Rockville, MD. He loves baseball and enjoys hiking, camping, and exploring anything. Follow Ed on Twitter @ECLedford.