I’m a Spy

This weekend went by way too quickly. I’m exhausted, but I have learned a lot…like how to become a successful international spy. The International Spy Museum taught me.

This weekend I went to the Smithsonian National Zoo…it was okay. Then I went to the Spy Museum and learned how to become a spy for only $18. The International Spy Museum is one of the newer museums in D.C.; it’s been around for almost two years and boasts all the gadgets, artifacts and stories necessary to teach you about being a spy.

To get into the exhibits you have to go into an elevator that takes you to the top floor, just like the Holocaust Museum; you work your way down in order to exit. First you’re taken into a room and given a fake identity that you will be quizzed on later. I was Angelina Falcone, a 21-year-old travel agent born in Italy going on a 30-day business trip to Hanoi, Vietnam…I still remember it after 24-hours. That’s pretty darn good.

Then we were taken into a briefing room where we were given all the basics on being a spy. Including facts like: Washington D.C. has more spies than any other city in the world. Great, now I’m going to be paranoid, I could have guessed that fact, but I didn’t need/want it confirmed. Oh well.

Next we were able to learn basic jargon for being a spy, like dead drop—when you hide important information in an ordinary object for another spy to pick up. We got to look at all the spy gadgets starting around the time of the Civil War…the coolest were the more contemporary “James Bond” toys—including one of his fully loaded Aston Martins.

From then on it was the history of being a spy. As we progressed from room to room we learned about spy networks from Elizabeth I’s to the Revolutionary War, then the Civil and World wars. The biggest disappointment was that they didn’t have much on female spies other than a small room about women in the Civil War. Wasn’t the Mata Hari a notorious female spy? There was only one picture of her in the entire museum!

In the “Red Scare” room a lady at a desk quizzed people on their fake identity, giving out stickers to “spies” who got all their information right.

Probably the most morbid of the exhibit rooms detailed the consequences for spies who got caught—some were Americans spying on America, others were Americans caught abroad or foreigners caught in the U.S. The biggest fear of every spy is getting caught, so there were dozens of gadgets/methods to allow a spy to kill him/herself if captured by the enemy.

As we left through the gift shop and saw everyone running around trying to purchase their own spy gadgetry, I wondered if the spy craze of the ’50s and ’60s that spurred the creation of comic books, board games and movies might be making its way back.

As we exited the museum into the warm sun, Erin, Kate and I agreed that the museum was okay, but it was not our favorite in D.C.

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